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“And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when He went forth to land, there met Him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not. (For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him; and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into them. And He suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and He went up into the ship, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought Him that he might be with Him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received Him: for they were all waiting for Him”—Luke 8:26-40.
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This is one of the many passages which bring our blessed Lord before us as absolute Victor over satanic power. Many people today refuse to accept the Bible teaching as to the personality of Satan and his hosts. Many think of the devil as simply the personification of evil, but the Word of God shows us clearly that he who is now the devil was at one time a pure spirit, a holy angel, attendant on the throne of God, but who fell through pride. Jesus says of him: “He abode not in the truth.” It is evident that many other angels were involved in his rebellion and are now in league with him in his opposition to God and Christ. There is only one devil, but there are many demons. When, therefore, the plural form “devils” is used in the New Testament records, it should always be understood as referring to demons, for it is a translation of the Greek word which means just that, rather than devils.
In our Lord’s earthly ministry He frequently met with people who were under demoniacal possession. We might not be able to understand fully what was involved in this terrible power over men and women, but we know that our Lord was always victorious over it.
Here we learn that when Jesus had arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee, a man met Him whose dwelling was in the tombs, who was possessed with, not one, but many demons. Gadara itself was a rather forbidding country, outside the land of Canaan proper, and inhabited by a mixed population. Many of the people were renegade Jews who engaged in customs that were repellent to the more orthodox, some even raising and selling swine. It is evident that the power of Satan was more manifest among these people than in the Land itself. Note the dreadful condition of this possessed creature. Luke tells us he “had devils (or demons) long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.” He is a picture of fallen man under absolute satanic control. Again and again his friends had tried to restrain him from the power that had imprisoned and bound him, but by superhuman power he snapped his shackles asunder and fled from the ordinary dwelling-places of men and found a refuge for himself among the dead in the tombs.
It is a terrible thing when Satan gets such control of a man that he is no longer amenable to respectability, or even decent restraint; when evil habits so dominate and control that one is outside the pale of ordinary law-abiding circumstances. Yet how many are thus subject to sin and Satan.
We do not know in what way the demons fully gained control of this poor man, but it is evident that sometime or other in his early life, he had opened the door to them; perhaps, by persistence in sins that the law of God condemned, and as a result he was a slave to these evil spirits and had lost the power to control himself.
His friends could do nothing with him. If his parents were living, their hearts must have been broken as they saw him in this hopeless condition. But the day at last came when he was brought into contact with our blessed Lord Himself, and then everything was changed. Jesus was the only One who could help him, and He was there for that very purpose. It is evident that the demons within him recognized the Lord at once, for we are told that when this man saw Jesus, “he cried out, and fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not.” The demon was speaking through human lips. This unholy, fallen spirit knew exactly who Jesus was; he recognized in Jesus, the Son of God who shall yet sit on the throne of judgment, and already he feared the hour had come when he was to be cast into the lake of fire. The demons all believed that Jesus was the Christ, it was only unrepentant men who questioned this; Satan himself knew that Jesus was the Son of God, the only Saviour. The only persons in the universe who dare to deny that Jesus is the Son of God are Christless men and women who are yet the objects of His favor. But while demons acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, they are not entitled to find in Him a Saviour for themselves. The demon in this man recognized Christ as the Judge, and pleaded for an extension of time ere his doom would be consummated. Jesus did not really answer his question, but put another question to this vile spirit: “What is thy name?” He demanded. And the answer came, “Legion;” because we are told, many demons were entered into him. A Roman legion was ordinarily made up of six thousand men. Perhaps we need not take the legion here literally, but at any rate it indicates that a vast number of demons had entered into this man. He himself was unable to reply personally because he was so completely under their control.
It would seem that these demons, who are disembodied spirits, yearn to come into possession of the bodies of men in order that they may stir them up into unlofty and dreadful passion, which will cause them to insult the God who created them. When the Lord Jesus commanded the legion to leave the body of the man, they begged to be able to take possession of the bodies of a herd of swine which was feeding nearby. The Lord gave consent. Expelled from the man they “entered into the swine: and (note the amazing result) the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.” How amazing is sinful man’s ability for evil! Two thousand hogs could not hold the demons that had possessed one man.
Instead of this remarkable evidence of the Lord’s power over Satan’s kingdom making an impression for good upon the hearts of those who beheld what was done, we are told that “they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.” They related to their fellow-countrymen the story of the loss of the swine, as well as the deliverance of the demoniac. So troubled were these people by the financial setback involved that after they had come out to see what was done, we are told they “came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.” What then? Did they fall at His feet confessing their own sins and seeking deliverance through Him? Not at all! It was the very opposite. They besought Jesus to leave their country. Sorrowfully, we may be sure, He acceded to their request. Luke says, “Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and He went up into the ship, and returned back again.” Jesus never remains with people who do not want Him. Men are permitted to choose in such circumstances whether they will receive Him or not. But though He left these Gadarenes at that particular time, we can be thankful to the Lord that the day did come when He returned to the same country and found a wonderful welcome. It was brought about in this way: The delivered man was so happy over the great change that had come to him that he pleaded with the Lord Jesus that he might be with Him. This man would have joined the company of the apostles and gone with the Saviour from place to place. Evidently his heart was so filled with love and gratitude because of his miraculous deliverance that he wanted to remain as near his Redeemer as he could; but Jesus had something else in mind for him. Instead of taking him away with Him, He said to the man, “Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee.” He who had been a raving maniac a short while before was now so reasonable that the people listened to him with amazement. He became an evangelist, and went throughout all that region telling the throngs of what Jesus had done for him; from village to village his story was carried. And so, we learn that later on when Jesus went back to that district, known as Decapolis, the multitudes thronged to meet Him and their entire attitude was changed. They did not want Him before; they were too occupied with the loss of their swine and with other evil things which kept them from opening their hearts to Him, but now they were glad to see Him. They brought out their sick in great numbers, and in loving-kindness He healed them all.
Such was the result of the faithful testimony of one man set free from Satan’s power by Christ the Lord.