“…The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.”
When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region. (Matthew 8:28-34)
Jesus had been teaching and doing miracles in Capernaum for a number of days when He entered a boat and sailed with His disciples across the Sea of Galilee. It was on this journey that the winds and waves reared up until Jesus calmed them with an almighty word—a miracle which had the disciples wondering, “Who can this be?” (Matthew 8:27)
Jesus and His disciples reached land along the southeast coast on the east side of the Sea of Galilee—the Gentile side. Upon landing, they were met with an extraordinary welcoming party: “…immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit…” (Mark 8:28). Matthew informs us that there was also a second demon-possessed man with him (Matthew 8:28).
Demon possession demonstrated itself in many ways. In this case, the two men lived naked and among the tombs. They were “exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way” (Matthew 8:28). The one of whom Mark speaks was fierce and incredibly strong: “…no one could bind him, not even with chains…the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him” (Mark 5:3ff). There were so many demons that they referred to themselves as “Legion” (Mark 5:9).
We might expect such a demon-possessed man to flee from the presence of the Son of God, but instead, “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me’” (Mark 5:6-7). The demons were well aware of who Jesus was and what He could do to them. As James tells us, “ You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19)
Anticipating what was going to happen, “The demons begged [Jesus], saying, ‘If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.’” And He said to them, ‘Go.’” (Matthew 8:31) With demons possessing them, about 2,000 pigs (Mark 5:13) ran headlong over a cliff, plunged into the sea, and drowned.
Imagine what must have gone through the disciples’ minds. Hours earlier they had seen Jesus command the forces of nature. Now they witnessed Him command the powers of hell. “Who can this be?” The demons knew. The disciples were being led to know. You know. This powerful Jesus is the Son of God, your Savior.
Is demon possession still possible today? Nothing in Scripture suggests that it could not happen. However, in this account we have the benefit of knowing that these men were demon-possessed because God tells us so. We have no such affirmative word from God regarding anything today.
It is not merely physical possession by demons with which we should be concerned. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The sobering reality is that the powers of Hell are doing everything they can to bring you to destruction. But fear not! The Son of God at whose feet the demons tremble and to whose word they must submit is your Savior—your brother. For that reason, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38f).
The keepers of the pigs quickly spread the word. “And behold! The whole city came out to meet Jesus” (Matthew 8:34). Like all of Jesus’ miracles, this miracle was an “attention-grabber” intended to demonstrate who Jesus is, and to pique interest so that people then listen to His life-giving preaching.
The people of the city were afraid and begged Jesus to leave. There was one exception—one of the men who had been possessed by the demons wasn’t afraid. The townspeople saw Him clothed, in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus, and learning from Him.
The healed man wanted to leave with Jesus, “However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled” (Mark 5:19). So many were fearful of Jesus and rejected Him, but it took only one man to have a missionary in Gentile lands.
A long stormy trip across the Sea of Galilee and a brief stay before returning. Was it worth it?
Oh, yes! In that journey is proof that our Savior “seeks and saves,” for He traveled a great distance for the benefit of one man and what would be accomplished through him. In the brief time Jesus spent in Gadara we have evidence that He is the Son of God who has authority over our spiritual enemies.
And in the afterglow of the miracle we see the fear that is so often the world’s response to Jesus. We also see the powerful Word of God take root in a sinner’s heart, moving him to tell others of who Jesus is and what He has done.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, take courage in your daily struggle against spiritual enemies. Put on the armor of God (cf. Ephesians 6), walk with your Savior-Brother, and spread the word about all that Jesus has done for you.
Satan, hear this proclamation:
I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation,
I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny,
God, my Lord, unites with me!
(WS 2000 #751:3)