Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon (Luke 8:26-39)
Luke continues to show how people are responding to Jesus. The parables were about how we respond to his word. This passage, like the one before it, provide examples of people responding to Jesus’ power.
The episode is found in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). One of the significant differences being that Matthew mentions two demoniacs. The easiest answer is that Mark and Luke refer to the greater example of God’s power (the one who was in far worse condition, and the one who remained at the feet of Jesus afterwards).
Take a moment to place yourself in the shoes of the disciples. They are still reeling from the near death experience they had in the storm. They are in fearful awe of the one who calmed the storm. And promptly upon arriving at the shore opposite Galilee, they face another nightmare.
Read Luke 8:26-39.
The power of Jesus is a fearful reality until we have been set free from the power of Satan.
I. The Power of Jesus (26-33)
The power of demons to cause this man to live naked and alone among the tombs is shocking. We learn more of his tortuous existence in Mark 5:3-5. I don’t know if it was common for people to visit the tombs of loved ones, but this man would certainly have scared them off. He seems to have been a terror to the people in the region because he was bound with chains “many times.”
Why did Jesus send the demons into the herd of pigs? That seems to have harmed the community. Well, I can’t answer all our questions, but the circumstances are enlightening.
- The large herd of pigs (2,000 in Mark 5:13) represents the great number of demons that possessed the man, consistent with the name “Legion.” The sheer greatness of the numbers would have made the story remarkable and unforgettable. The man’s testimony of “how much God has done” for him, which Jesus encourages him to share (v.39), was incredibly powerful!
- Pigs indicate that this was either a Gentile region, or a Jewish region living in defiance of God’s law by raising unclean animals. If it were the latter (Jewish), Jesus’s actions may represent God’s displeasure. If it were the former (Gentile), the entire episode reveals that they valued their careers and material possessions over human physical and spiritual health. Either way, Christ’s disciplinary actions were justified.
- We should also point out the consistent connection throughout Scripture between the sacrifice of animals and the healing of his covenant people. Although this is not a formal religious sacrifice, the death of the pigs marked the clear healing of the man who had been possessed.
- However, the final answer is that God does according to his will, not ours (Dan. 4:35).
- The demons’ request reveals their belief in the tormenting punishment that awaits them in hell (cf. Rev. 20:1-3).
The primary purpose Luke has in this passage is to show us another example of Christ’s superior power. He has just shown his power over the weather, revealing his possession of divine power that is always associated with Yahweh. This is immediately followed by Jesus revealing his power over the spiritual realm. The demons recognized Jesus’ authority and begged for him to send them into a herd of pigs rather than the abyss, which they apparently knew would be their final destination. Their need for his permission reveals his authority over them.
We should not underestimate the power of Satan and his demons, but no slave of Satan is beyond the healing power of Jesus Christ. Jesus healed this man instantly who had been tormented by demons “for a long time” (v.27).
The demoniac’s transformation/salvation (sozo) was whole: His location moved from the tombs to the feet of Jesus. He went from being physically naked to be clothed. And he was now visibly in his right mind rather than being crazy. He experienced a radical transformation because of Christ. He went from being a slave of the devil, to a joyful servant of Christ. This is the transformation all believers experience!
Many were witnessing the power of Jesus for the first time. We are not autonomous self-empowered creatures. So much of what we experience in life is outside of our control. Of course, everyone doesn’t see it that way. Some think they are in control of their own destiny. When they find they aren’t successful they blame their internal doubt. Or, if they’re arrogant, they blame all of the naive and ignorant people around them that don’t appreciate greatness when they see it.
Do we realize the power of Jesus to heal? Do we acknowledge that his power is greater than any power that stands against us? Do we surrender to his power and rest in his strength?
II. The Fear of Jesus (34-39)
The people of the city recognized Jesus’ power and they were filled with fear.
Interestingly enough, that is the same reaction that the disciples had when they witnessed his power (8:25). However, the difference is significant. The disciples remained with Jesus whereas the people in the surrounding country of the Garasenes asked him to depart. Neither of them wanted to remain fearful of Jesus, but only the disciples and the man healed were drawn closer to him. The fear of the people was improper because it did not draw them to Jesus.
In this passage we find a lot of people rejecting the power of Jesus when they witness its effect. Why did they reject Jesus? Either they thought his power was irrelevant to them and their own weakness, or they thought his power would have a negative impact upon their lives. The herdsmen, the pig farmer, the people in the country witnessed Jesus’ power as disruptive to their lives.
We all know people like that don’t we? There are family members and friends who simply can’t be bothered with too much talk about God and church. They would rather worry about work or their favorite sport teams. Maybe they’re indifferent or downright hostile toward Christianity.
Does the fear of God keep us from coming near?
Now notice what Jesus did in this passage. He took the one most excited about his power and told him to remain in his hometown and “declare how much God has done for you” (v.39). The healed man would be a living and ever-present testimony of the power of God among a city that had rejected him. We know nothing about his long term impact, but Mark informs us that he shared his story in the Decapolis (ten cities) and everyone marveled (Mk. 5:20). One thing is clear, Jesus didn’t limit evangelism to the apostles.
Does the fear of man keep us from proclaiming all Jesus has done for us?
All the people had to do was compare the two powers that were on display in order to know that Jesus was one to desire not reject. It seems so obvious to those who have believed, but those who rejected him were too caught up in their temporal and worldly endeavors to care about eternity. Let us pray that won’t be the case for any of us, or those we proclaim the gospel to these next few weeks.