KEY THOT: In this story we are given a quick introduction to demonology. We can learn a few things about demons and how they operate. Firstly, demons are personalities without bodies. And they seek to inhabit living things--whether humans or animals. They are like viruses that enter into living hosts, inserting themselves into the cells of the host and then replicating themselves in ways that are often destructive to the hosts.
- “Loud Voice” (v.28a): Demons can take over the vocal chords of the demon-possessed and speak through them. In other words, total possession means total control of the person’s brain and body functions to act through them, according to the demon’s will. In this instance, the demons inside the demon-possessed man drove the man to live among the tombs, screaming and cutting himself (Mark 5:5, "Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.")
- “Son of the Most High God” (v.28b): Demons recognize Jesus as the “Son of the Most High God”. In the spiritual world, Jesus always has been God’s eternal Son and the demonic world acknowledge His authority to “order them into the Abyss” (a region in hell where all demons will finally be banished).
- “Break the bonds” (v.29): A demon-possessed person has supernatural strength when demons take over his or her physical functions. Demonised people are known to perform physical feats that defy human abilities: like leaping, levitating, over-powering several strong men, demonstrating super-normal martial arts skills, etc.
- “Legion” (v.30): Demons are spirit-beings that occupy no physical space and many demons can infest one person. In this case, the name “Legion” suggests there were thousands of demons in this man. A Roman Legion is a regiment comprising 6,000 soldiers. We know from Mark 5:13 that the number of pigs drowned was 2,000. Assuming one demon entered every pig, that would mean that there must be at least 2,000 demons inside this demon-possessed man. Notice that it says in verse 31 that “they begged him repeatedly.”
- “Abyss” (v.31): The demons begged Jesus not to send them to the Abyss. The Abyss is sometime translated as “bottomless pit”. In the following texts from Revelation (Rev. 9:1-2, 11 and 20:1-3) we learn that the Abyss is a special region in hell where powerful demons are currently locked up. And in the last days, these powerful demons will be released into the world to deceive and destroy the nations. Satan will also one day be bound in the Abyss for a thousand years. The demons begged Jesus not to send them there because they wanted to remain “free” to roam the earth.
- “Went into the pigs” (v.33): Demons can possess not only humans but animals too. When animals are demonized, they behave in self-destructive ways, just as demon-possessed humans do. Demons have personalities but not bodies. They seek to inhabit life-forms to express themselves by taking control over them and acting through them. In this case, they caused the pigs to rush down the steep bank into the lake to drown themselves.
- “Right mind” (v.35): When the demons were driven off from the man, he was “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.” The demonized man would probably be diagnosed today by modern science as suffering from some form of schizophrenia or mental illnesses. But the Bible explains that in his case, his “mental illness” did not originate in himself or his mind but is a consequence of external spiritual entities taking over his brain and body functions. The “person” is still there but he has lost control of his own physical faculties by these invading demonic spirits. Once these spirits were cast out, the person regained the use of his brain and body functions.
The ex-demoniac wanted to follow Jesus. But Jesus gave him a more important task: go and tell others “how much God has done for you” (v.39). Today, the church as Jesus’ representative on earth has been tasked to do the same.
We are called to tell others what Jesus has done at the Cross, how he has overcome depravity, diseases and demons. And we are to demonstrate this victory: “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-2). This commission was repeated to 72 others in Luke 10:9—so it’s not just for the Twelve.
The only reason why some churches have so little experience of such supernatural encounter and ministry is because they focus their ministry too much on insiders (believers) rather than outsiders (non-believers). We need to change our focus in ministry if we want to preach the gospel and to engage the enemy in spiritual warfare. Sometime, like the townfolks of Gerasenes, we would rather not have people delivered in our congregation because such ministry will upset our comfortable church lifestyle: “Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear” (Luke 8:37).
Father God, deliver us from the fear of the unknown and the fear of having our comfortable lives complicated by unfamiliar happenings. Grant us boldness to rise up as Your people to confront the evil spirits that are now perverting our society. Amen.