Title: Jesus has power over demons
Scriptures to Read: Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39
In the evening Jesus set out in boats with His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee from the north west side to the north east side. And in that day the north east side was Gentile territory. The Jewish territory went all the way from Bethsaida down to Magdala. And then from Tiberias all the way round and up again was the Gentile side of the lake. So this is one of the few times He crossed over into Gentile territory to get away from the Jewish crowds to be able to teach his disciples privately.
Gadarene or Gerasene?
You will notice that Matthew says they came into the country of the ‘Gadarenes’, while Mark and Luke say it was the country of the ‘Gerasenes’. Some have considered that to be a contradiction arguing against the inspiration of the text. However, that argument only reveals their lack of knowledge of the geography of the day. On the eastern side of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee was an area of Gentile territory called Gedara. It was primarily Gentile with a small Jewish population. Within the region of Gedara were several cities, two of which play a role here. One was the city of Gedara. So the word Gedara can refer to either a city or a region, similar to New York in the United States. When I say New York do I mean New York City or New York State? Only by the context can you tell. The same thing applies here. Gedara might refer to a region, or it might refer to a city. Essentially Matthew is giving us the region. He is not giving us the city. Another city within the region of Gedara was the city of Gergasa. And so the event described here takes place in Gergasa in the region of Gedara.
We now have a detailed description of an extreme demonic state. Not all demonised people were as extreme as this. This is a situation where the One who has been accused of being demonised will now be facing a legion of demons and this event shows that He has power over them. Also notice that Matthew records that there were two demon-possessed men, but both Mark and Luke choose to focus their attention on one of them.
What demons know
In these accounts we see what demons commonly know.
1. They recognise that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Most High God.
2. In Matthew’s account in verse 29 they say: “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” They know they are destined to go into the lake of fire at the appointed time.
Here Jesus uses the traditional Jewish method for casting out demons. He asks them: “What is your name? And he says “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Notice the change of pronouns from “my” to “we”. A legion of demons was anywhere from three thousand to six thousand. A small legion was three thousand. A full legion was six thousand. So in this demonic state there are at least three thousand demons.
Luke verse 31 says: “They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.” The Abyss is a section of Sheol of Hades, and is a place for the temporary confinement of fallen angels or demons. When a demon was cast out spent some time in the Abyss and was then released again. Here they asked Jesus not to be sent into the Abyss. Instead of being sent into the Abyss, they ask to be sent into the pigs. And Jesus gave them permission. And when the demons enter these pigs, they all run into the Sea of Galilee in a mass suicide and drown themselves. Why did He grant the demons’ request? Was He having compassion on them? The reason He allowed them to go into the pigs was not likely to be compassion for them, but for the reaction of the herdsmen that followed.
We see three results of this event.
1. The herdsmen run and tell everything in both the city and the country.
2. The man from whom the demons had gone out was sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.
3. All the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear.
The healed man
We saw the man “sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” This is a picture of the man listening to Jesus’ teaching. Now, as Jesus is getting into the boat to leave, the man begs Jesus to be allowed to accompany Him. He wants to become a disciple of Jesus, but Jesus would not accept Gentile disciples at this stage. He says in verse 19 of Mark: “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” Decapolis was a union of ten Greek speaking Gentile cities, nine of which were on the east side of the Jordan. Only one, Scythopolis, which in New Testament times was a Gentile city, was on the west side of the Jordan.
We see two things here:
1. At this point Jesus is not accepting Gentile disciples, and as a result the man cannot become His disciple at this stage.
2. And the policy not to tell people about what he has done applies to Jews but not to Gentiles.
Results in Decapolis
Mark adds that “everyone was amazed.” And when we come to the section about the feeding of the four thousand, we will see the success of this man’s ministry. For now, Jesus is asked to leave. Next time He comes He will be welcomed.