By Donna Reimer
This is the account of Jesus healing a demon possessed man in the Gadarenes region; the man of the tombs.
In the previous passage of Luke 8:22-25 Jesus and His disciples had been passing through every city and village. Jesus was preaching and proclaiming the Good News of salvation and performing many miracles. From the western shore of the Sea of Galilee Jesus directed His disciples to launch the boat and head for the other side of the lake. While crossing to the other side, Jesus fell asleep and a terrible windstorm whipped up. The boat was filling with water and they were in grave danger. They ran to Jesus and awoke Him saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the waves. So the wind and the waves ceased and were calm. He asks His disciples, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid, but marveled that even the winds and the waves obeyed His command. They wondered who this Jesus could be.
Verse 26: Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee.
Verse 26 identifies their location as the “country of the Gadarenes” or as in Matthew's account “the Gerasenes”. This place where Jesus arrived is located on the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This is the only account where Jesus performed a healing in Gentile territory. It was filled with people who were more culturally Greek than Jew. It was part of the Roman district known as the Decapolis consisting of ten cities. Jesus’ direction to go to this place showed that Jesus cared about all people, Jew and Gentile alike. He was on a specific mission with a specific purpose.
Verse 27: And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs.
Verse 27 As soon as Jesus stepped out of the boat He was approached by a man who had been demon-possessed for a long time. He had many demons in him and he was in a miserable state. Even though, at one time he had lived as a normal person (It says he was ‘from the city’), now he was naked and he did not live in a house but in the cemetery outside the city. In that region there are hills that come right down to the shore so there were most likely caves there where they buried the dead. It was not what we think of as a cemetery here where the dead are buried in the ground. This man roamed among these tombs and lived in them.
Verse 28: When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!”
Verse 28 When this tortured man saw Jesus he fell down in front of Him. Mark 5:6 says that this man “worshiped” Him. In Albert Barnes’ Notes it says that this was ‘an acknowledgment’ of Jesus’ ‘power, and of His control over fallen spirits’. Matthew Henry says, in his commentary, ‘O what a comfort is this to the Lord’s people, that all the powers of darkness are under the check and control of the Lord Jesus! He has them all in a chain. He can send them to their own place, when He pleaseth’. The unclean spirit in him spoke in a loud voice. The demon asked, “What do I have to do with You?” meaning ‘why are you troubling or disturbing us?’ The demon acknowledged Jesus as “the Son of the Most High God.” This name, Most High God, is “Elyon” in Hebrew, meaning “Highest” or “Exalted One” emphasizing that God is the highest in every realm of life. The demons’ declaration here shows they knew He was divine, He was equal to God. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble!” He was begging, “don’t torture me.” This man was being horribly tormented by demons yet the demons were fearful that Jesus would also torment them. They did not want to leave this body they inhabited. David Guzik, in his commentary says, “We can say that demons want to inhabit bodies for the same reason the vandal wants a spray can, or a violent man wants a gun-a body is a weapon that they can use in their attack against God.” He goes on to say, “Demons also attack men because they hate the image of God in man, so they try to mar that image, by debasing man and making him grotesque.”
Verse 29: For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.
Verse 29 Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Here is a frightening picture of an afflicted human being. These demons would often grab him. Even though there were guards and he was bound with chains and shackles he would be able to break loose by the strength of the powerful demons. Matthew 8:28 says that he was “exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way”. Mark 5:4 says, “no one could tame him”. The next verse 5:5 says, “And always, night and day he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” He was truly a madman. The man would then be driven by the demons into the wilderness. It is interesting to note that in the Greek, the word ‘driven’ means “to push (as wind, oars or demonical power). And isn’t that just the way satan is? He furiously drives or pushes people to do evil while Jesus, our gentle shepherd, lovingly leads and guides us to where He wants us to go.
Verse 30: Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him.
Verse 30 Jesus asked the demon what his name was and the demon said, “Legion” which meant many. ‘Legion’ is not actually used as a name here but as an adjective describing the number of demons in this tortured man. ‘Legion’ in the Roman army was a unit of 3,000 footmen and 3,000 horsemen…6,000 men. ‘Legion’, in this case, was not necessarily thousands but the demon that was speaking, possibly the chief demon in charge, used it to mean a large number maybe in an attempt to intimidate Jesus.
Verse 31: And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.
Verse 31 Here we see the demons actually begging Jesus not to send them into the abyss or the bottomless pit. Described in Revelation 9:11 this is the place where they would be eventually imprisoned. They were afraid that Jesus would send them there prematurely. They wanted that day of imprisonment to be delayed, even though they knew it was imminent. That place is ruled by the angel named “Abaddon” in Hebrew which means ‘destruction’ or in Greek the name “Apollyon” meaning 'destroyer '. Their plea showed their knowledge and fear of God’s power and they knew what the future held for them…eternal imprisonment in the abyss where they could no longer do their evil deeds but face eternal punishment.
Verse 32: Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them.
Verse 32 These demons begged Jesus to permit them (allow them) to be sent into a herd of swine which were feeding close by. In Mark 5:13 it says, “there were about 2,000” swine. The demons knew their only power was whatever Jesus allowed them to do. We remember in Genesis 3 that satan is allowed to take the form of a serpent to deceive Eve. These demons might have figured that by inhabiting the swine they would at least have a body in which to continue to work their evil. To the Jews swine were unclean. They were forbidden to eat them and even to keep them. But to these Gentiles these swine were their livelihood. Charles Spurgeon says, “satan would rather vex swine than do no mischief at all. He is so fond of evil that he would work it upon animals if he cannot work it upon men.” Remember that Jesus allowed it.
Verse 33: Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.
Verse 33 So the demons left the man and entered the swine that ran violently down the hill and into the lake (or sea) and drowned. David Guzik’s commentary says that the reason Jesus allowed the demons to enter the swine was to show everyone the real intention of the demons which is to ‘steal, kill and destroy’, as Jesus spoke in John 10:10, and also to show the violence and destruction with which it is done.
Verse 34: When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.
Verse 34 When the swine keepers saw what had happened they fled and told everyone in the city and the country what they saw. In those days there were superstitions about demons. They believed that the demons should have had greater power than Jesus who they thought was only a man. They were shocked and probably afraid of Jesus.
Verse 35: Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
Verse 35 When the people came out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, they saw the previously demon possessed man sitting at Jesus’s feet, clothed and sane, in his right mind. What an amazing contrast! But they seemed to be more terrified of this newly freed man than when he was possessed.
Verse 36: They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon possessed was healed.
Verse 36 The eye witnesses told the others how it had all happened and how he had been healed. The word healed in Greek is Sozo which means to save, deliver, protect, to make whole. A totally demon possessed man had been saved, delivered, protected and made whole by Jesus.
Verse 37: Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And he got into the boat and returned.
Verse 37 Then the crowd asked Jesus to leave. Instead of being amazed and embracing Jesus they were afraid. Maybe they were angry and thought Jesus might interfere with more of their financial profit. Instead of being overjoyed at the freedom of the man of the tombs they were more concerned with the destruction of the swine herd. So He did as they asked. The Lord will never remain where He is not wanted. Charles Spurgeon says, “Here was a whole city at a prayer meeting, praying against their own blessing…Horrible was their prayer; but it was heard, and Jesus departed out of their coasts.” So He got back into the boat and returned.
Verse 38: Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, (saying)
Verse 38 Only one, the man of the tombs, begged Jesus to allow him to stay with Him. At first he just sat at Jesus’ feet but then he wanted to follow him and be his disciple. David Guzik says that “this man didn’t only want what Jesus could do for him; the true change in his heart was shown by that he wanted Jesus Himself. But Jesus sent him away.” Matthew Henry’s commentary says, ‘Perhaps Christ knew when the resentment of the loss of their swine was a little over, they would be better disposed to consider the miracle, and therefore left the man among them to be a standing monument, and a monitor to them of it.’
Verse 39: (Jesus speaking) “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
Verse 39 Jesus told him to go back to his house, his community, and tell them what great things God had done for him! So he obeyed Jesus and proclaimed throughout the entire city what great things Jesus had done for him! David Guzik, in his commentary, says, ‘This was a great message to tell, and a message that every follower of Jesus should be able to preach. His story showed the value of one life to Jesus, because this was the only reason why Jesus came to this side of the Sea of Galilee. His story also showed that with Jesus, no one is beyond hope, because if this man could be changed then anyone can.’
Today I want to proclaim what great things Jesus has done for me!
Out of the three chapters of Luke I could choose from, chapter 6, 7, or 8, why did I choose this passage? When I was young I did not think very highly of myself. As a matter of fact, in comparison to others, I thought rather lowly of myself. I wanted to do what I thought was right most of the time so I gained the sarcastic nickname from my older sister of “good ole Donna”! This low assessment of myself continued throughout my college days and into the early years of marriage.
Then somewhere along the way I started to believe my nickname was actually true! I was good! I had prayed the sinner’s prayer at sixteen and was filled with the Holy Spirit, attended a Christian College, Westmont, where I met my Christian husband, Galen. I was growing in my knowledge of God and in my faith in Him.
At the age of thirty Galen and I had been married for eight years and we had two young daughters. I remember feeling emotionally distraught at being “so old”! I was having a crisis, not of my faith but of myself. I believed I needed something to make me feel good about myself so I bought a shiny firebird sports car. I’m embarrassed to say my license plate read, ‘I whined’ which is how I got Galen to agree to this silly purchase. Can you imagine trying to get a 4-year-old and a one-year-old in and out of that 2-door car? I didn’t keep it very long! I traded it in for a 9 passenger Suburban!
In the next ten years or so I continued in my faith and served in many areas of our church. Even though I was a believer, pride hadn’t been dealt with as it should have been. In Romans 12:3, Paul commands us “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly.” I didn’t realize what a hold pride had on my heart. I remember getting ready for church and looking in the mirror and thinking, “A cut above the rest!” How ugly I was in my heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” I was deceived and didn’t even realize it.
Not only was I prideful with a deceived heart, I was self-righteous and judgmental. One day, in my early 40s I was alone at home while Galen was at work and our girls were at school. I was singing and worshiping along with our local Christian radio station when a song came on that I had never heard. I had never even heard of the artist. He was singing about the man of the tombs in Luke 8. As I carefully listened I started thinking of someone who fit his description. Spiritually naked, insane, living in the place of death-the tombs! I started praying for this person who really needed the Lord like this man in Luke! “This person, yes, this person, oh God deliver this person”! But, mercifully and graciously, as the Holy Spirit does, He spoke to my heart in a firm voice. “This was you before I delivered you. You were spiritually dead, living among the walking dead, naked, out of your right mind. This was YOU! But I saved you out of all this through my death on the cross. Don’t you see?”
I immediately dropped to the floor, weeping and repenting of my blindness, and my self-righteous, prideful, judgmental attitude. I believe that this was the first time I really experienced deep repentance and understood what it meant to repent. I could see that I was the “man of the tombs” before Christ redeemed me. He saved me from eternal death, He clothed me with His righteousness, He gave me a renewed mind and a heart of flesh. What a wonderful revelation!
May we all agree with King David when he says in Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth- Praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD.”
The Holy Spirit continues to reveal my sin and bring conviction to allow Him to change me. May we never forget what God saved us from and remember what great things He has done for each one of us!