A very bizarre story to say the least. Here, Jesus and his disciples come to the other side of the lake following the storm, and when they do, they immediately come across two demon possessed men. (One wonders why only one is mentioned in Mark and Luke. Perhaps only one of them came to a saving faith, but that is only speculation).
Perhaps as they first were drawing near the shore, they heard these strange howls and cries, and they wondered what in the world those howls were. Then when they reach shore, these men come running out naked, and possibly with broken chains hanging from their hands and feet. And when the disciples look more closely, they notice cuts up and down these men’s bodies, and they can see they’re self-inflicted.
How would you have felt? I would have been frightened out of my mind.
But Jesus commands the demons to leave. At first, they resisted, shouting, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? Swear to God that you won’t torture me.” (Matthew 8:29; Mark 5:7).
But when Jesus continues to demand they leave, they ask permission to go into a herd of pigs, and when they do, the pigs jump off a steep bank and drown in the lake.
When the townspeople come out and see the men in their right minds, however, they are frightened out of their minds at the transformation and ask Jesus to leave.
What can we get from this?
I think the first thing is that demons are real, and are not to be trifled with. Some people “play” with tarot cards and ouija boards thinking it’s just a game, but whenever you “play” with these things, you’re opening yourself up to a spiritual beings…and they are not from God.
One person put it this way. “There is a door to the spiritual world, and the doorknob is only on our side. But when we open that door, anything can come in.”
Note too that these demons do not mean us any good. Sometimes they disguise themselves as angels of light, but ultimately, they seek our destruction. You can see that in their treatment of these men, but also in what happened to the pigs when they entered them. Tarot cards and ouija boards may seem fun, but the powers behind them are seeking to destroy you.
The good news is that we don’t have to be afraid of them. Because as powerful as demons are, Jesus clearly shows here that he has the authority over them. That said, stay as far as possible from anything occultic. You may be forced to encounter demons, but that doesn’t mean you should go pursuing encounters with them.
Hopefully, you’ll never encounter demon possession, but there are other things I think we can get from this passage.
First, while sin may seem fun, in the end, it controls you and will destroy you. I don’t know how these men came to be demon possessed, but it didn’t come by seeking God. And while they may have opened the door to these demons, once they came in, they were no longer in control, the demons were. In the same way, we may start out by choosing sin, but in the end, it controls us. Like the men in this story, a lot of the wounds we have are self-inflicted. And apart from repentance and God’s grace, sin will destroy us.
But as with Jesus and these demoniacs, Jesus has the power to set us free. If we will turn to him and repent, he will forgive our sins, and help us to overcome sin in our lives.
Not everyone will be happy with the change, however. The people from their hometown certainly weren’t. They asked Jesus to leave. As bad and frightening as these men used to be, it seems the townspeople almost wished they had never changed. People may feel the same about you.
But Jesus calls us to minister to them. And like Jesus told these men, so he tells you,
Return home and tell how much God has done for you. (Luke 8:39)
Jesus has set you free. Won’t you share what God has done for you so that he can set free those you love too?