Lesson 52: The Demonic Man of Gadara
Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5;1-20, Luke 8:26-39
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 52. Welcome again! In our last lesson we read about Jesus calming the storm on Lake Galilee and then Jesus and his disciples wound up on the east side of the lake; in a place called Gadara. We read v.26-39 in Luke's account (that's ch. 8) at the end of our last lesson. I suggest you re-read that before we get underway in this lesson. But, we're going to start this lesson off by reading from Mark and Matthew. Let's read Mark first. It begins in Mark ch. 5 and we're going to read 20 verses. Are you ready? Mark 5:1 beginning. Let's read. "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. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand,) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind; and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to they friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel."
Did you notice that Mark is getting longer winded? Up until the more recent accounts; Mark's accounts were very brief; two or three verses. But, this account contains much more detail. I don't have an explanation for that. However, before we discuss THIS let's read Matthew's account also. It begins in Matt. 8:28. Matthew gives the shortest account, of the three writers. Matt. 8:28-34. Notice that all three writers place this account immediately following Jesus calming the storm? Are you ready? Matt. 8:28, beginning, let's read. "And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesense, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the heard of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts."
O.K. remember, this was still part of that intensive, apostle-training period. This is the only record we have of Jesus entering that country directly east of the sea of Galilee. And you have undoubtedly notices that Matthew said the country of the Gergesenes, and spelled it different than Mark and Luke. This might be explained in that one word applied to the larger country or region while the other word applied to the local area. That's just a guess. Naturally, this creates some confusion if you try to read the commentary literature; but, we won't get into that. And since there was apparently no city at the place where Jesus and the disciples came ashore; we tried to be practical and simply called that point on your map, point # 15, "the place of the demoniac man." You should have that posted. I suggested you do that at the end of our last lesson. But, I think it's important that you get that on your map. In the last verse of Mark's account he mentioned Decapolis, which was really a territory where 10 cities had made a league together many years before. The word Decapolis literally means 10 cities in the Greek. So, this was not the name of a town. But a territory that roughly corresponded to the country of the Gadarenes. We ran across Decapolis once before in Matt. 4:25; where Matthew listed people from that region along with others that came to hear Jesus.
But, on this occasion, when Jesus stepped out of the little ship there on the east of the sea of Galilee after that tempestuous journey the night before; Matthew said, "there met him TWO possessed with devils." Mark and Luke mention only one. That's probably because it was only one of these men who drew such great attention. Mark emphasized that this happened IMMEDIATELY when he was come out of the ship. Matthew said they were possessed with "DEVILS". Mark says, "UNCLEAN SPIRITS." Luke used the word "DEVILS" like Matthew. Some translations, including the New KJV use the word "DEMON" in this text. So, take your choice. Obviously all these words refer to the same phenomenon. I trust you remember the man that Jesus healed in the synagogue on a sabbath day in Capernaum, Luke 4:33. We discussed this phenomenon there once before; so, I'm not going to re-iterate all of that, again. But, I did tell you there, that this change was prophesied in the O.T., Zechariah 13:2. It says "idols," "prophets" and "unclean spirits" would be removed from the land. Thus, we're not talking about some disease that this man who met Jesus had like we might know today. It was NOT a physical disease. Now, you won't have to go very far to find someone who disagrees with that. I wouldn't be surprised to find some who apply it to AIDS, drug abuse, or almost any thing else. And, I mentioned before, that some today claim to be spiritualist mediums and dabble in seances, exorcism/ etc. The reason I keep emphasizing this is because this part of the scripture is sometimes ridiculed by atheist and those who think they are smarter than God. They say the bible teaches demonology and make their little puns and assign it to superstitions and call it old wives tales. But, don't be taken in! The Bible teaches about evil spirits in connection with the arch enemy of God. And, even though evil spirits (called demons) have passed out of the land in our dispensation or time; that doesn't mean they don't still exist behind the scenes some place or another. If I don't understand this and you don't understand this; that really doesn't change it. But, at that time, the time of Jesus, they did exist, invisible, in corporeal, and they possessed people. You can't read this and conclude anything else. They brought much evil upon the people they possessed: blindness, insanity, dumbness and in this case a sort of suicidal mania. It seems that some were free to roam around as they pleased. Others, who rebelled and sinned are chained in darkness awaiting the judgment, if you'll read II Pet. 2:4. These spirits seem to be very much like angels in a sense; except that they are an extension of God's arch enemy called Satan. Please notice in the text, if you will; these demons possessed superhuman intelligence. They recognized Jesus as the Son of God. James said they could believe, tremble and fear (Jam. 2:19). You will remember in Matt. 4:9, Satan wanted Jesus to worship Satan. The method of these spirits opposing God seems to be in frustrating God's plan and diverting His subjects through temptation. The book of Job in the O.T. illustrates this point. Notice in Matt. 8:29 that one of their fears WAS that Jesus had come to torment them, "before the time." The situation seems to suggest they even anticipate punishment in the future; but their main goal at that time was to prolong or postpone that torment. As the book of Job verifies; they operated only so far as God permits. I don't understand why, but it seems (at least then) that God did not unduly restrict them; where it did not interfere with God's plan.
Now, remember that Luke was a physician. Take a look at how Luke described the conditions of the demon-possessed man. He wore no clothes (v.27) and neither abode in any house. All of us tend to identify with a house that we call our home; regardless of how humble it may be. But, this man abode in the tombs; we'd call it a graveyard. One of the methods of burial in that CITY was to chisel out a tomb in the rocks; a sort of man-made cave. And this is where the demoniac man stayed. Matthew said in v.28, the man was exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass that way. Some had tried to keep the man chained; for their own safety, I presume. But, their attempt had failed. The man seemed to have almost superhuman strength at times and the chains were broken. I suppose a lot could be read into that statement in Mark 5:4 where it says the man's chains and fetters were "plucked asunder" by him. This man was literally destroying himself in the rocks and by a rough and crude life. But, the spirits were very aware of Jesus' presence. Mark's account, v.6, says, "when he saw Jesus afar off, he RAN and worshipped him." The idea of worship here is not "in spirit and in truth;" but in the sense of awareness and acknowledgement. Notice that Luke said Jesus COMMANDED the unclean spirits to come out of the man. V.31 in Luke says, "they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep." The New International Version and others say, "into the Abyss." (with a capital "A"). The Greek word translated "deep" here, is used only once more in the entire N.T. (Rom. 10:7) and has reference to the unseen realm. This is not the Greek word used for "bottomless pit" in the book of Revelation. But, it would seem by definition that both words have reference to the same place; i.e. the abiding place of Satan. So, it would seem that those spirits liked it there in the country of the Gadarenes; but, they didn't want to go home to the Abyss, as the other translations call it. Thus, they tried to plea bargain with Jesus NOT to send them back into the abyss. Mark 5:13 says, "Jesus gave them leave." Luke said, "he suffered them." This shows that these spirits were subject to Jesus the Christ the Son of God. And it shows that Jesus did not punish them before their time; what ever that means. Someone has said it shows those demons feared the great punishment of that abyss far more than men do. And there may be a great lesson there. Our text defines "Legion" as many. But, how many is many? Mark gives the number of the swine as "about two thousand." Thus, if at least one spirit went into each of swine there would have been thousands of the spirits. Mark said, "the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea." Surely you can understand the shock and amazement that came to those swine herders. Then, some one must have shared some clothing with the demon-freed man; whether one of the apostles from the little ship, or just how, we're not told. But, it says the man was clothed, sitting and talking intelligently, and showed appreciation for the great miracle that had just happened to him.
However, as the crowd began to gather and the calm began to settle over the crowd in meditation and awe; everyone did not react to that great miracle in the same way. A little pencil work can easily establish there was undoubtedly a quarter million pounds of dead pork floating there in the edge of the lake. Not only was that a great shock to those swine farmers; but, that was a terrific economic loss as well. Thus, Luke said in v.37, "the whole multitude.. .of the Gadarenes...were taken with great fear." We need to recognize that every place where Jesus went there was no small stir.
Now, as we try to close this lesson; what is the great lesson to us in these verses? Was Jesus responsible for the property loss as some have claimed? Jesus healed the poor demoniac man. It was the demon's desire to enter the swine, NOT Jesus. There were three requests made of Jesus here: (#1) The evil spirits said, don't send us into the deep (or the Abyss) and they besought Jesus NOT to punish them before their time. (#2) The Gadarene people, "prayed him to depart out of their coasts." (Mark 5:17). Then, (#3) "...the man, out of whom the devils were departed, besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee." (Luke 8:38-39). This shows that the man undoubtedly did have a house or home from which he had apparently departed in his miserable ordeal. Thus, Jesus left behind one missionary there in Gadara. And there's another great sermon title here: RETURN TO THINE OWN HOUSE AND SHOW HOW GREAT THINGS GOD HATH DONE UNTO THEE. Mark and Luke both tell us that the healed man DID as Jesus asked. Thus, he showed his appreciation through obedience. And, that's another great lesson! Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments." Also, Jesus told this man to tell of his good fortune in contrast to what Jesus had told others that Jesus healed, you will remember. You see, Jesus was leaving and thus crowd control and the threat of the Pharisees was not a problem there in Gadara.
In summary, here's a word picture of one visit that Jesus made during that apostle training period. Jesus must have been on the land there about a half a day. Can you visualize the fierce man that came to meet Jesus when he went ashore? And the great miracle which Jesus did to this man by merely commanding the unclean spirits, "Come out of the man...!" (Mark 5:8). Then can you visualize the sudden scramble of 2000 hogs and their plunge into the lake? Can you visualize the reaction of the people? Dismay, fear, and their request for Jesus to leave. What about the man that was healed, clothed, in his right mind and begging Jesus to go with him? AND, Jesus refusing and telling the man to work there at home? Can you visualize the little boats as they began to move out of the harbor and the great crowds looking on? Another episode of Jesus preaching the kingdom. If Jesus should come to our community today, would he be asked to leave? How many missionaries would he leave there? How many does he have now? Have a good day!