Luke 8:26-39

Last time, we looked at the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm. We found that in allowing the storm, and then commanding the wind and waves to be calm, the intent of Jesus was to teach His disciples on the boat (and us) to place our trust fully in God, and not fear the seeming threats of this world. How marvelous it is for the believer in Christ, who can – through simple faith and trust – receive the promise spoken of by the apostle Paul…

Philippians 4:6-7

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Although it’s not explicitly said in the story of the storm, it seems clear that Jesus intended from the outset to teach this lesson about trust by allowing the storm to blow up during their voyage. Continuing now, we find the story of the lesson Jesus intended to teach when they arrived on the opposite shore…

Luke 8:26-39 (Matt. 8:28—9:1; Mark 5:1–20 )

26Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” 29For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.

30Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?”

And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. 31And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.

32Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. 33Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.

34When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. 37Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.

38Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

The Gadarenes spoken of in verse 26 were the descendants of the tribe of Gad. Recall that Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh had requested an inheritance in the land of Gilead on the east side of the Jordan, and Moses granted that request provided that these tribes would still participate in the conquest of Canaan by the children of Israel (see Numbers 32). Once the conquest was completed under the leadership of Joshua, these tribes returned to their promised inheritance east of the Jordan.

The details of the borders of Gad are given in Joshua 13:24-28. This area stretched from the Jordan between its outflow from the Sea of Galilee (called Chinnereth in this passage from Joshua) and its inflow to the Dead Sea (called Arabah in the Old Testament), and eastward into the foothills of the mountains of Gilead in modern-day Jordan.

Following the Babylonian exile, the remaining Gadites settled somewhat further north along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, near the Yarmouk River. By the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, they were called Gadarenes after their capital city – Gadara – which was part of the Roman confederation of 10 cities called the Decapolis.

Before moving on, we should also note that Matthew’s gospel calls these folk by a slightly different name…

Matthew 8:28

When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes[Greek Γερασηνός Gerasēnos], there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way.

Nevertheless, some English translations of Matthew 8:28 still read Gadarenes. Some of the ancient Greek manuscripts of Luke 8:26 also read Γερασηνός Gerasēnos, and some read Γαδαρηνός Gadarēnos. There can be little profit, I fear, in exploring this particular rabbit hole any further, provided we’re simply aware of the slightly different names in the various Greek manuscripts. Perhaps the best lesson to be taken away is that obviously some of the available extant Greek manuscripts (possibly all of them) are not 100% in alignment with the original autographs which we hold to be inerrant, God-breathed scripture.

Although, the area was originally given to one of the tribes of Israel, by the time of Jesus ministry, they had either been entirely displaced by Gentiles, or those who were of Jewish decent were no longer practicing Jews, since, as we will see in this story, they raised swine – something forbidden by the Law of Moses.

When one visits Israel today, the tour guides point out a place along the shore just south of En Gev where the main highway hugs the coastline, which is the only location along the lake’s eastern shore today where the steep bank drops directly into the lake. Thus it is a possible location of the healing Jesus performed in this story. With that said, though, the great rift valley of the Jordan which extends from Lebanon through the Red Sea and down into southern east Africa opposite Madagascar is the longest and deepest fault line in the world. Since the time of Jesus, many very severe earthquakes have shaken the area, one of which reportedly stopped the flow of the Jordan for two days! These may well have altered the topography of the shoreline, so it would be impossible to state with any certainty exactly where this miracle took place.

But I digress. With that long-winded introduction to the story out of the way, let’s press on to look at the healing itself, and see what lessons we might glean from it…

Luke 8:27-29

27And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” 29For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.

Note that Matthew 8:28 says that two demon possessed men met Jesus when He stepped from the boat, not just one as reported by Luke and Mark. It seems quite a stretch that Matthew might have been reporting a separate event, so assuming all three synoptic gospels are reporting the same event, then the question is why Matthew reports two demoniacs while Luke and Mark report only one. It is conceivable that this might be a biblical discrepancy of some kind, possibly due to transcription error. The more likely explanation is that there were indeed two demon possessed Gadarenes, but that the healing of only one of them was considered by Luke and Mark significant enough to report. We know from other accounts that Jesus himself had cast out many demons, and had given this power to His disciples as well.

Jesus has very little tolerance for demons. Small wonder, since these are the very fallen ones who under the direction of Satan, have tried throughout history to interrupt God’s plan of redemption by corrupting the seed of mankind and preventing the coming of Jesus the Messiah who God had promised would eventually defeat Satan…

Genesis 3:15 (God speaking to the serpent in the garden of Eden)

And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel.”

Recall that Satan (Lucifer) had led a rebellion in Heaven, seeking to place himself above the throne of God (see Isaiah 14:12-21). Revelation 12 also speaks of this rebellion, and describes the fiery dragon (Satan), drawing a third of the stars (angels) from Heaven with his tail, and casting them to the Earth. These fallen angels later so corrupted humanity that the only one left whose human blood was still pure was Noah. Thus, God brought a flood upon the earth to wipe out this defilement (see Genesis 6:1-10). These very same demons – the earthly minions of Satan – have continued to cause havoc throughout history since the great flood, and some of them had invaded the body of the Gadarene man in this story.

The possessed man had been exiled from the Gadarene society much the way lepers were traditionally exiled. Those possessed by demons are frightening to “normal” people. We are repulsed by them, and seek to hide them away from ourselves. If they won’t remain safely and quietly filed away, then we seek to restrain them by force, as those in the Gadarene village had tried to do with this possessed man. In modern society, while we rarely if ever call demon possession what it is, we treat the mentally ill in much the same way. Those who are released from their isolation, are shunned. People cover the eyes of their children when such people pass near.

No doubt, this instinctive reaction to disturbed individuals (including the demon possessed) is born out of fear that whatever they are suffering may be “catching.” I believe that demons do indeed take over people even today, although such a belief may be regarded as ignorant and superstitious by the majority of the modern unbelieving world. Before I was saved out of the world by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and indwelt by His Spirit, I too held such a position. Until I came to believe in God, I never believed in Satan either. But the Word of God warns us about this…

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Of course, disbelief in him and his minions is exactly what Satan desires. He would like us to think (as most people do) that dabbling in the occult is harmless fun. We celebrate the occult, and expose our children to it on Halloween, thinking nothing of it. Most people consider Ouija boards a harmless game. Occult Hindu practices which are actually demon worship are largely considered to be beneficial to health – particularly mental and spiritual health – by the unbelieving world. Even those who are diligently seeking the real God without the protection of God’s Holy Spirit may fall prey to demons under the control of the evil one. Jesus warned that even those who have been previously healed of demon possession may fall victim again if they do not become born again, and filled with the Holy Spirit…

Luke 11:24-26

24“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

By contrast, those who have been born again by the power of God’s Spirit, and who thereby have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts have no need to fear either Satan or his minions. My pastor in Tucson told of a late night call he received from a distraught member of the congregation claiming he could hear Satan’s footsteps in the hallway. The pastor said he was very tempted to advise the man, “Roll over and go back to sleep. You belong to Jesus!”

We can rest assured that God’s Spirit will not cohabit the believer along with an unclean spirit. Nevertheless, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of disregarding Satan’s power. Recall that prior to his fall from Heaven, Lucifer was among the most powerful of the angels, and he will remain so until he is finally bound at the second coming of Jesus Christ. In the meantime, let us follow the sage advice of Chuck Smith who often said that he always tried to keep Jesus between himself and the evil one. Recall the admonition of Jude…

Jude 1:9

Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

Even the mighty angel, Michael, dares not come against Satan in his own power, but instead calls upon the power of God to combat the evil one.

Notice in verse 28 that these demons clearly recognized Jesus for who He actually is – “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?…” Matthew’s gospel also makes it clear that they apparently also had some knowledge of God’s timeline for the Gospel…

Matthew 8:29

And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

The fact that demons always seem to recognize Jesus is reminiscent of James’ stern rebuke in speaking of faith without works…

James 2:19

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

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Luke 8:30-31

30Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?”

And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. 31And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.

Of course, Jesus didn’t need to ask the demons’ name. This question was more for the benefit of the bystanders (and us). The name given by the demons – λεγιών legion – refers to a body of soldiers. In the Roman army, such a group consisted of about 6,000 soldiers. The name is thus quite appropriate in referring to the multiple demons who had possessed this poor Gadarene man. Jesus also used this word when He rebuked Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night He was betrayed…

Matthew 26:52-54

52But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

The abyss (Greek – ἄβυσσος abyssos) that the legion of demons feared being cast into is also called the bottomless pit and the deep. It is a place of imprisonment where demons, and those who have died without knowing Jesus are held until the Day of the Lord when all will be judged. After the Great Tribulation, Satan himself will be chained in the bottomless pit during the millennial rule of Christ, but will then be released for a short while. Afterward, there will be one final battle, and then Satan and his demons will be cast into the lake of fire forever…

Revelation 20:1-10

1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

7Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The bottomless pit is also known by its Greek name – ᾅδης Hades which is also called “hell” and “the grave” in our English translations. It is a place of temporary imprisonment for demons and unbelievers who await the final judgement unto eternal condemnation and torture in the Lake of Fire.

Contrast the bottomless pit with Abraham’s Bosom, the temporary dwelling place of Old Testament believers (like Abraham) who believed in the promise of the coming Messiah, but died before Jesus’ resurrection. These await the final judgement unto eternal life in Heaven in the presence of the Lord. The only Biblical reference we have to Abraham’s bosom is found in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31.

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Luke 8:32

Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them.

As mentioned in the introduction to the study of this passage, it is apparent from the fact that the Gadarenes were raising pigs that the original Gadite inhabitants of the area had either been entirely replaced by Gentiles following the Babylonian captivity or had drifted so far from their Judaic roots that they were in open violation of the Mosaic Law.

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus witnessed not only to the people of Israel, but also to the Gentiles in the area. We see that in this story and also in the story of His witness to the Samaritan woman at the well found in John 4. These witnesses to the Gentiles were a fulfillment of prophecy…

Isaiah 42:1

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,

My Elect One in whom My soul delights!

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.

Isaiah 49:6

Indeed He says,

‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob,

And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;

I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,

That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

Indeed, Jesus also commissioned His disciples to be Gospel witnesses not only to the house of Israel, but also to the Gentiles…

Matthew 10:16-18

16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.

In fact, this witness to the Gentiles was one of the issues which caused the Pharisees to conspire to kill Jesus. It was also the cause of an emotionally charged debate within the early church, who accused Peter of hypocrisy until they learned that the Holy Spirit had been given to Gentile believers, just as He had been given to Jewish converts…

Acts 11:1-18

1Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

4But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

18When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

The ultimate fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission to preach the Gospel throughout the world is the true evangelical Church of Jesus Christ that has been proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles since Jesus’ ascension. Indeed it is quite ironic that the Church now has the duty to not only proclaim the Gospel throughout the Gentile world, but also among the remnant of Israel, who having failed to recognize their promised Messiah at His first incarnation, must now come to Him in faith along with the Gentiles and eagerly await His return.

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Luke 8:33

Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.

As mentioned earlier, there is only one place along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee that the hillside falls directly into the lake, so the assumption is that it must be that same place where this healing took place. At least one Jewish scholar even claims that the story must be a myth, because there is no place where a cliff overlooks the edge of the lake. This argument is not as ludicrous as it might at first glance seem. The Greek word κρημνός krēmnos translated as “steep place” here means an overhang or precipice, and there are indeed no cliffs in the area occupied by the Gadarenes. However we need to remind ourselves once again that the landscape may very well have changed drastically over the last 2,000 years due to geological activity. Indeed, if the story were a myth, why would it’s author make up the part about the pigs running down the bank and drowning, if there were no place along the shore at which this event could plausibly have occurred? Furthermore, the story does not say that the pigs fell into the lake (as over a cliff), but that they ran violently down the steep place.

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Luke 8:34-37

34When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. 37Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.

Clearly, this healing of a man the Gadarenes had known for years, was a powerful miracle. How tragic then that, rather than seeking to draw closer to and learn from Jesus, who had done this mighty work among them by the power of His Word alone, the Gadarenes became fearful and asked Him to depart from them. Indeed, the text implies that among all the eyewitnesses, and among those who heard of the miracle secondhand, only the man who had himself been healed sought to follow Jesus.

Perhaps there was also an element of insecurity and earthly greed among the Gadarenes who may have feared that Jesus, having already killed one of their swine herds, might go on to destroy others. Perhaps there may even have been an element of guilt in their reaction. Perhaps there were indeed a remnant of the original Gadites in their midst who knew the law forbid raising swine. Jesus may have been aware of this, and used the killing of the swine herd as an element of his teaching to them.

Sadly, the reaction of the Gadarenes to this somewhat scary healing is typically human. We all tend to run from the unknown and from new, challenging situations even when they are clearly beneficial to us.

Notice also Jesus’ response to their rejection. He did not plead His case with them, seeking to convert them by the power of His persuasion. He simply got into the boat and returned. This is a powerful testimony about God’s gift of free choice to mankind. God’s desire for the love and devotion of His creation is powerful indeed. Nevertheless He defers to us the power to choose or to reject His Gospel. However, the story is quite poignant, and reminiscent of Jesus’ plaintive response to Phillip after he asked Jesus to show him the Father…

John 14:9-11

9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

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Luke 8:38-39

38Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

Of all those in the country of the Gadarenes, only the man from whom the demons had been cast out seems to have learned the lesson that Jesus had set out across the lake to teach. In his response, and in Jesus’ direction to Him, we see a microcosm of the Great Commission Jesus gave to all His followers immediately before He ascended to the Father. When we are saved, we naturally want to cling to our Redeemer just like this man. We do truly love Him for what He has done for us…

1 John 4:15-19

15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19We love Him because He first loved us.

Nevertheless, our God knows much better than we do what is best for us, and best for those around us to whom He sends us as witnesses. No doubt, the man was disappointed to be left behind in the country of the Gadarenes when Jesus returned across the lake from where He had come after performing this healing miracle. Nevertheless, we see that he enthusiastically obeyed Jesus’ command to tell others of what great things Jesus had done for him. In this, he truly demonstrated his love for Jesus…

John 14:15-21

15“If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

19“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

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