After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studied the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Casts Demons into a Herd of Pigs
And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men.
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
I shall refer to Mark primarily through this post since it seems to provide the greatest details, yet a minor comment on Matthew may be prudent.
A common question arises as to whether there were one or two demon possessed men? Matthew informs us of two demon possessed men coming to Jesus, but Mark and Luke refer to one. Is this some sort of contradiction, or is this simply the gospel writers giving information they feel pertinent. After all, if two demon possessed men come to Jesus, and one of them leads the “discussion” with the Lord, this does not contradict Matthews account. Matthew does not say there was only one demoniac man. It simply clarifies that one of the men was prominent.
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
Looking at the previous passages in Mark 4, Luke 8 and Matthew 8, the Word describes Jesus spending the previous day with the disciples and a large crowd, delivering a number of parables. Night time fell and they crossed over “to the other side” strewn about on the sea by a great windstorm, which the Lord unexpectantly calmed.
When they landed at the other side, Jesus and His disciples were met by a demoniac. This sudden appearance of a demon possessed man may have confirmed the disciples attitude of this region being predominantly pagan. See below, under our “Where” heading for a bit of information on that.
Those in the audience included the disciples, although reference to them is strangelyabsent, the demoniacs of course, the herdsmen of the pigs (Mark 5:14) and eventually people of both the city and the countryside. What started out as an apparently chance encounter blew up to include a large crowd, presumably including the owners of the pigs that were possessed and sacrificed to the sea.
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
It is interesting that the Jewish population of Jesus day considered the Gadarene/Decapolis region (east of the Sea of Galilee) to be pagan. Although the demoniac is often described as from the Gadarenes, this may have been simply the designation of the region, for the text speaks of the demoniac coming to Jesus immediately. Based on that, I consider modern day Khersa (Gergesa) to be the likely city from which the people came, and where Jesus docked the boat.
Nevertheless, the people of this area were commonly described in writings of the day as being descendants of the original seven Canaanite tribes. This people group were assumed to be descendants of the original people of the land, that were never completely removed from the land during the time of Joshua. The general Jewish population considered these folks pagan, worshippers of Baal, a people that ate and sacrificed pigs in their religious endeavors.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, this question occasionally defies a concrete answer, since the text sometimes allows the reader to make his own conclusions on the reason of the Lord’s work.
This miracle is, on the surface, a result of the demoniac’s interactions with the Lord. First off, upon entering the area, Jesus immediately began to say to the demoniac “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit”.
Jesus did not hesitate to enter this pagan area, exorcizing demons from the first man he encountered. As an aside, might He have been symbolically performing the task left by Joshua and the nation of Israel as they entered the region? Joshua’s generation were to remove the pagan influence from the land. Was Jesus acting as the true Joshua? If so, this is quite instructive, since Jesus left after the people of the land revealed they didn’t want to be rescued. This reveals not only the heart of men, but also of the Lord. He is One who seeks to save, but does not to force His will on those refusing. The only one delivered this day was a demon possessed man that appeared to be the least likely candidate for salvation. And the Lord did not abandon this “pagan” area, providing a light for these people. This demon possessed man, known by all in the area became a witness of the goodness of God, in the person of Jesus for the rest of his days.
The demoniac then requested a delay of tormentation (is that a word?) from the Son of of the Most High God. The demons then bargained with Jesus and had the nerve to request for the coming exorcism to be directed to the pigs.
A specific reason for this miracle is not given, other than to provide respite for a man possessed, and to change his opinion of who God truly is. Jesus ministry was cut short due to the regions rejection, as this miracle was the only ministry Jesus was able to provide before being “kicked out”!
What was the message for the original audience?
I suppose this question may have multiple answers, considering there were at least three audiences impacted by the miracle.
First, the demoniac. The message was clear. The Son of the Most High is a saving God, not a tormenting God. This single truth should make each of us consider how we view the Messiah. But that needs to be reserved for our next point. Jesus, God in the flesh, the perfect representation of our Heavenly Father, the One who did nothing without the Father’s direction, completely changed the atmosphere of the meeting. What began in an accusatory manner from the demoniac, was transformed into an atmosphere and attitude of gratitude, and a willingness to learn of Him.
Lets not miss one other point. The demoniac somehow understood the Son of the Most High to be a condemning messenger. Where did he get this from? I would suggest that the demons have to teach everyone under their influence a message of condemnation from God, in order to fuel the hatred they feed on. Consider the source!
Secondly, the disciples. They witnessed an unlikely, hate filled accusatory, demon possessed man become a follower of Jesus within minutes. Beyond this unexpected result, the Lord tossed him “back to the wolves”, telling the healed man to go home and speak of the good that the Lord had performed. The city folk, along with those of the countryside were not in an accepting mood at the time, and this fellow had mere moments with the Lord before entering “deep water”. The disciples had months with Him and will eventually accumulate years of being with Him. They had a singularly critical mission to perform, requiring much more than a simple witness.
Thirdly, the crowds of the region, including the owners of them thar pigs. This group did not receive a message as intended, but closed their ears due to the bleeding of their wallet. They were steeped in rebellion, and possibly had been fired up by the owners in getting rid of this itinerant preacher, who decimated the local business. Two thousand pigs is a huge “flock” to loose, and I imagine the economic impact of this miracle was quite devastating. No, they would not consider who had the power to deliver men from demonic influence, since this may lead to understanding they too needed deliverance.
What is the message for us today?
From the demon possessed man’s standpoint, the message for us today is to be a simple witness, to speak of the good things that the Lord Jesus has performed in our lives. We are also to mimic the life of Christ, representing a saving God, and not to repeat the lie of a demon, assuming God “is anxious “just can’t wait” to torment His creation. What utter balderdash!
From the disciples perspective, a message for us today is to be open to surprising acts of God. This application is somewhat difficult since reference to the disciples is completely absent in this telling of the miracle. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that this miracle was not expected – dang the stilling of the sea wasn’t expected either! Jesus was One who did the unexpected.
It was a few years ago when I heard a preacher tell his congregants to expect the unexpected. Consider this statement. To expect something is to take away the character of being unexpected. Sometimes a message sounds good, but upon inspection, simply makes no sense. Such is the case with this one. The great news of the Savior is that He has the ability to surprise us with His work, and we can be thankful for His present care. But don’t try to expect (demand?) the unexpected. Just be happy that the Lord loves you and is a saving God.
From the general populations standpoint, the message is also clear. Don’t be like them! Dat’s simple now, ain’t it? These folk primarily had wrong priorities, seeing an economic impact only, and not considering the incredible human impact of the Messiah’s visit to their region. They quickly judged the One who healed, condemning Him and requesting He leave. So non-typical of the Messiah Himself. He sought them out, they sought him to leave. He looked to heal, they wanted to remain sick. He provided a hint of what may come, they decided to remain in the past.
How ’bout you?
Are you quick to judge who Jesus is? Are you rejecting Him simply due to someone’s bitter spirit or complaints? Go to the source and not some gossip rag or hatefilled preacher spreading lies about the type of God Jesus is. Remember that the demoniac assumed Jesus came to condemn.
Jesus brought salvation.
He is good, and He is good all the time!
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