THE POSSESSED MAN OF GADARA
Mark 5:1-5 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when He was come out of the ship, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. (Also See Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:6-21; Luke 8:26-40)
Continuing with the chronological order of the gospels, we found in Matthew 8:18 that Jesus was preparing to sail from the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum, and depart unto the other side (of the sea). Matthew then says that their destination was to the country of the Gergesenes (Matt. 8:28). Reading the remainder of this verse we find that Jesus met two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. In Mark and Luke we find a more descriptive narrative of this event, with some slight insignificant differences. Both of these gospels tell us that the geographical area Jesus came to was the country of the Gadarenes. Translators tell us that this is the same country and same nationality of people that Matthew refers to as the Gergesenes. Also, Mark and Luke indicate that there was only one man possessed with an unclean spirit. Some bible scholars say that Mark and Luke focused their attention on one of the men that was completely possessed with devils, giving little attention to the other man who was less dominated by these demons. Regardless, the lessons to be learned are the same regardless of the various translations. The fact that Mark seems to give the more detailed description to this scriptural event, his gospel will be the primary source of this discussion.
Having sailed over the Sea of Galilee, Jesus, and those following with Him, came into the country of the Gadarenes. Going ashore, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. Although the man was, at this time dwelling among the tombs, Luke tells us that the he originally came out of the city (Luke 8:27). What the man's status was when living in the city is not given. However, now possessed with demons, he had either been driven out of the city by its inhabitants as an undesirable person or he possibly desired to be alone and sought a more secluded refuge among the tombs of the area. Both are matters of biblical speculation. Luke writes that the man wore no clothing and had no dwelling in which to live. Both Mark and Luke tell us that the man was often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. Being demon possessed, neither his mind nor his strength could be restrained or controlled by civil authorities, much like unyielding sinners cannot be restrained from their evil ways by God's doctrine that teaches civil obedience and condemns lawlessness. Matthew adds that the demon possessed was so feared by others who deemed him exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. Indeed, this demon-possessed man was a dangerous menace to society, but was also just as destructive to himself with self-inflected cutting of his flesh with stones.
But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him. Most biblical analysts seem to think that it was the possessed man himself that ran to Jesus and worshipped Him. However, it seems that being completely possessed by this demon of Satan, that, although it was the body of the man, it was the spirit of the devil that caused him to do so. Demonical possession, at this time, was not a disease of one's body or mind. Rather evil spirits that were thought to be the punishing result of a grievously sinful life, actually took control of one's thoughts, speech, and actions. This being so, the action of running to Jesus and worshipping Him, by paying homage to Him as the Son of God, were controlled by the devils that had taken control of this man's mind and body. One may ask, "How did the man recognize Jesus." The answer is simple. The man probably didn't, but the demons that serve Satan most certainly knew Jesus, as well as God, His Heavenly Father. This is evident because it was the voice of the man, but it was originated by Satan, himself. When Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man, it was Satan's voice that answered and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? Satan recognized God as being supreme over all other beings, both human and spiritual. He also recognized Jesus as God's Son, something that even most Jews at this time failed to recognize. And, finally, Satan declared that he had nothing to do with thee (Jesus). He neither admits, claims, nor pretends to be associated with either God, Jesus, or the doctrine He teaches.
Realizing He has the power to do so, this unclean spirit pleads with Jesus not to prevent him from his evil ways. This he begged from Jesus: I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. To this, Matthew adds before the time, which probably means before Satan's power was partially bound by Jesus at His death on the cross of Calvary, and will be permanently bound on Judgment Day. Regardless of the various translations, Satan knew that a much greater punishment was to take place in the future, and probably realized that time was near when his power would be taken away.
In verses following the lesson text, Jesus addressed satanic spirit, and asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. The military term "Legion" has been said to be as few as six thousand and as many as twelve thousand, five hundred soldiers. Referring to Satanic demons, the evil spirit was correct to say that we are many, but they all have a united cause. This gives us a clue as to how many devils, or different types of evil influences, that Satan has in his arsenal to use in his attempt to destroy the influence of Christ and defeat the cause for which He died to establish. With one last plea, the unclean spirit besought Him much that He would not send them away out of the country. Although speaking with one unified voice, we know from the reference to "them" in this verse, that the Satanic demons that possessed this man were many (also see verses 12-14 below).
The following verses have as many scholarly opinions as there are unanswered questions. Realizing their dire situation, Luke records that the legion of demons begged Jesus that he would not command them to go out into the deep. Some say that "the deep" meant some unearthly place unknown to mankind. However, since they were on its shore, "the deep" could refer to the Sea of Galilee. From his recorded gospel we are told by Mark that near by the mountains there was a great herd of swine feeding. Luke says that there were many swine feeding on the mountain, while Matthew writes that there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. Regardless, a herd of many swine, (they were about two thousand), could be seen from where Jesus confronted the demons that had possessed this man. Instead of casting them into some abyss, these devils pleaded with Jesus to send them into the swine, that we may enter into them, that is, to inhabit their bodies. Jesus granted their request and the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, ...and were choked in the sea.. Why these events took place in this manner is a matter of speculation. We can readily see that Satan never gives up without destroying the lives of as many people as possible, as well as the things which they own.
The herdsmen that had witnessed their swine being violently swallowed up in the sea, immediately fled into the city, and in the country. Since these herdsmen probably did not own the swine, but were mere caretakers, they went to their owners to tell them of the dramatic and unexplained loss of their livestock. They also told the same story to all other inhabitants of this city. Recounting the event, the herdsmen doubtlessly accused Jesus for this unfortunate monetary loss. And they went out to see what it was that was done. Matthew wrote that after hearing about this incident the whole city came out to meet Jesus. As the account recorded by Mark continues we find irate, vengeful townspeople, especially the owners of the swine, coming out intent on finding retribution and justice for the loss of the animals from which they gained their livelihood. But when they witnessed the man that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. No doubt those of the city remembered this man before he became possessed by the demons of Satan. They also knew him and the terror he brought to those of the city after being possessed. Now they saw him healed and free from devil possession. Having been told how Jesus caused the devils to come out of the man, enter into the swine, and be drowned in the sea, and now seeing the man restored to his right mind, the people were awestruck, and they began to pray Him (Jesus) to depart out of their coasts. It was not only the owners of the swine that wanted Jesus to depart, but Luke writes that it was the desire of the whole multitude of the country that Jesus ...depart from them; for they were taken with great fear.
From this entire, complicated occurrence, the question comes to mind: why would people desire a godly man depart from their presence that had miraculously restored a man from demon possession. With such power, this man called Jesus, whom they failed to recognize as the Messiah, could have been retained as their protector from any future mental and physical possession of mankind by Satan. Some say that this is an example of people's preference of worldly goods over the spiritual blessings that can be found in Jesus. In other words, avarice, that is, the greedy desire for the present riches of the world, all too often voids the desire for much greater riches available from God in the eternity to come.
But would Jesus intentionally destroy property that was the source of income, which belonged to others? Certainly breeding, growing, selling, and eating the meat of swine was not a condemned profession to the Gentile world. This Jesus certainly knew. Another question arises. Why did Jesus come to this part of the country? Jesus self-proclaimed mission on earth was to preach repentance and baptism to prepare the Jewish nation to hear and accept God's plan of eternal salvation. It was to be first preached to the nation of Israel, and at a later time to the entire Gentile world. Therefore, it can be inferred that Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, to the country of the Gadarenes, in order to teach the Jews that were living there and mingling with the heathen people that also inhabited that land.
Could it be that the swine owners and/or the herdsmen were Jews? This seems to be the only way one can justify Jesus actions in killing the swine! Remember the two occasions that Jesus disrupted and destroyed the property of Jews that were employed in the illegal profession of selling animals for sacrifice and exchanging foreign currency into that needed for alms giving in Jerusalem? The apostle John records an occasion when this occurred during the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry (John 2:13-16), and Matthew writes of another time this took place during the end of His ministry (Matt. 21:12-13). In these incidents the more affluent Jewish "business men" took unfair advantage of the poorer Jews that came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days. But more sinful was the fact that, according to Jesus, by participating in such employment, these Jews profaned the temple by making it an house of merchandise (John 2:16), and a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13). In this instance, Jesus was justified in destroying the property they were using in their sinful profession. This could very well have been a similar just action by Jesus with the swine, their owners, and their herdsmen. Had they been Jews, which seems very likely, Jesus was certainly justified in destroying their swine. Why? Because this was a direct violation of the Mosaic Law, was being used for ill-gotten gain, and was certainly sinful in the sight of God.
Take heed Christians; Satan still has the power to corrupt and destroy the eternal souls of those that yield to any one of his evil demons of sin!