The Gadarene man possessed by demons.
This incident happened quite early on in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Prior to this event, Jesus was teaching on the shore of Galilee. He taught thousands through parables. There were so many people there, pressing upon Him, so He had to go on to a boat, facing the shore, to continue teaching the people. In the evening, Jesus and His disciples crossed from the western shore to the eastern shore. They arrived in the country of the Gadarenes. Gadara and nine other cities in the area formed a region known as the Decapolis (In Greek, Deka means ‘ten’ and ‘polis’ means ‘cities’). Most of this region was to the east side of the Jordan River and was a Greco-Roman region.
The Gentiles here kept pigs. To the Jews a pig was an unclean animal; Jews would never keep pigs. To the Gentiles, keeping pigs was no problem.
Jesus and His disciples came to the country of Gadarene. As soon as they arrived a man possessed by demons came out to meet them. He was in a pitiful condition. Reading of this story in Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, we learn he was a man possessed by demons. A demon is a fallen angel. After the angels were created perfect by God some rebelled against God and were thrown out of heaven. Their chief is the devil. Ephesians 2 tells us they dwell in the air. But in this passage we can also see they live in men, animals or a region. This man was possessed by many demons, a legion. A legion was a name for a division of the Roman army made up of 6000 soldiers, therefore this man had many demons living in him. What was the effect of this possession on the man? Luke says he didn’t live in a house but in the tombs, naked. He was ferocious, a dangerous man. Matthew says that people would avoid going near where he lived because he was so dangerous. He was so strong that he was able to break his shackles and chains into pieces. He’d been like that for a long time. Imagine what he must have looked like. Satan is full of malice, full of hatred. He wants to destroy people. That’s what Revelation 11 tells us. The devil had destroyed the life of this man.
The man knew exactly who Jesus was, calling Him ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God’ (Mark 5:7). The demons know who Jesus is, they didn’t have any doubt.
Notice the authority Jesus has over these demons. As we go through the passage, we see that when the demon-possessed man saw Jesus he ran and worshipped Him. This man, who no-one could control, bowed down and worshipped Jesus. He cried out, ‘Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ (Matthew 8:29). He is referring to the end of time, when demons will be cast into hell. The demons were worried Jesus would do this now. They begged Him not to do this now, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them’ (Mark 5:12). They did not want to be sent out of the country. They begged Jesus that they enter the pigs, knowing that they needed His permission for this to happen. They could not do it without Jesus’ authority. They had to leave the possessed man but did not wanted to stay in the area. The devil can only do what God allows him to do. Jesus is Lord of kings, rulers, people, angels, over demons and the devil.
Notice the change in this man. After the demons left the man and went into the pigs – 2,000 pigs, they ran violently. Again, see the character of the devil, the stamp of Satan in the pigs as they ran violently into the sea. The people, told by those looking after the pigs what had happened, ‘saw the demon-possessed man … sitting there, clothed and in his right mind’ (Mark 5:15). What a transformation! Jesus had released him from the grip of the evil one. More than that, Jesus had given him new life, He had put spiritual life into his heart. He was born-again. The Holy Spirit had come to live in his heart. He had come to know God. This is why Jesus Christ had crossed the lake – in order to save this man. He was in a Greco-Roman region. The gospel wasn’t only for Jews, the gospel would be for the whole world. The man sat at the feet of Jesus in his right mind. It shows what Jesus can do with a man, what Jesus can do with our society. Do we believe, like this man, that Jesus is the Son of God? Do we believe the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ? To be right with God, to be forgiven of our sins, we need to believe the message of the gospel. The power of Christ gives hope. Look at the change in this man. If we’re not a Christian, we can become a Christian. If we’re a Christian struggling with life, Jesus gives hope.
Look at the response of the people of Gadara, ‘they were afraid’ (Mark 5:15). When the people saw the man they were afraid. Why? There was an awareness in their hearts that something supernatural had happened. You would have thought the people would have been thankful and asked Jesus to stay. However, ‘They began to beg Jesus to depart from the region’ (Mark 5:17). What a blessing they lost! (Jesus did later return to the region, Mark 7:21).
Contrast this with the response of the healed man, who ‘begged Him that he might be with Him’ (Mark 5:18). He believes in God, he is thankful and wants to be with Jesus and serve Him. But Jesus wasn’t willing. Jesus had other plans for him. God has a plan for our lives. It wasn’t God’s plan for him to be a disciple with Jesus, He wants him to go home to his friends, who he would not have seen for a long time, and tell that what Jesus had done. And this is what he does, sharing what Jesus had done for him. What a wonderful testimony. And the people marvelled.
God expects us to share with people what He has done for us. How are we to be witnesses for Christ? ‘In your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15). Put Christ first in your heart. Always be ready to give the reason for the hope that is within you. Do this with meekness and humility. We are only who we are by God’s grace. We need to live the life of a Christian, doing good works, treating people with love (John 13:35), so that others see the light of Christ.