March 9, 2023
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
Jesus Casts Out Evil and Men Respond
After a tumultuous lake-crossing, Jesus arrives at the other side of Lake Galilee. He had just calmed the storm (Mark 4:35-41) which had scared the disciples so much and tested their faith. “They were terrified and asked each other: who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” (Mark 4:41)
Soon after getting out of the boat, Jesus is approached by a demon-possessed man. He is dangerous, as dangerous as the deadly storm the disciples had just survived. Ostracized by society, he lived in a region of caves and tombs outside the City of Gadara. The unthinkable happens, the man recognizes Jesus, runs towards him, worships him and kneels before him. Amazing! The myriad of demons, trapped inside the man worship Jesus!
Today’s passage is all about asking, or begging Jesus. The Scriptures invite us to petition God, “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Asking can be for the right but also for the wrong reasons, as we see in the case of the mother of Zebeddee’s sons in Matthew 20:20-21. In this passage, we see different types of requests:
- The demons implore Jesus not to torment them. (vv. 7-9)
The mystery remains of how they knew of Jesus. They fear that Jesus will condemn them to the fate reserved for fallen angels and send them to the Abyss (2 Peter 2:4) or throw them into a lake of burning sulphur (Revelations 20:10-15). The Lord commands the demons (the name “Legion” means there were many of them) to come out.
- Then the demons beg Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs. (vv. 10-12)
This comes as a surprise, as Jewish farmers did not herd pigs. But we know that Gadara was one of the 10 cities of the Decapolis League, an area predominantly populated by Gentiles. The demons go into the pigs and the 2,000 pigs choose to commit suicide and drown, even though pigs can swim, rather than be possessed by demons. (vv. 13-15)
- The townspeople beg Jesus to leave. (vv.16-17)
Here is an example of asking for the wrong reason. After this great miracle, the inhabitants are scared and instead of being grateful to Jesus, who has liberated them from a scourge, they prefer to see him go and leave the area, acknowledging the miracle but fearing what could come next.
- The man, now healed, asks Jesus to let him follow him. (v. 18)
Surprisingly, Jesus refuses the request and tells the man instead to go and share the Good News in the region. (vv. 19-20) This again can be understood as an effort by Jesus to use the healed man as a “disciple”, helping him to spread the Good News in Gentile territory.
This passage is fascinating and reminds us of the need to ask, seek and knock. Before asking, we need to ponder whether we are asking for the right reason. Even if we are not inhabited by demons like the man by the lake, we are inhabited by sins and we need to continually beg Jesus for pardon and mercy, to seek and to knock on the doors, that he will open.
Prayer: Lord, thank you that in the new heaven and the new earth we will enjoy your great love for ever and ever. Thank you that right now we know your love, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and we experience your love, poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit. Lord Jesus, we praise your name for ever and ever.