Luke and the Man Whose Name Was Legion


Luke 8:26-39

The record of this wonderful miracle is found in all three Synoptic Gospels.  Mark gives us the most detailed account, Matthew the briefest.  Luke’s version of the story follows Mark’s closely, differing in wording but very similar in fact.

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee.  (Luke 8:26 NIV84)

This seems like such an uneventful verse.  In our minds we picture a most serene scene; Jesus and the 12 gently sailing across placid blue lake.  But glancing back a few verses we realize what a terrible sequence of events led to this:

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, Master, Master, were going to drown!He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  Where is your faith? he asked his disciples.In fear and amazement they asked one another, Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him. They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee.   (Luke 8:23-26 NIV84)

How much wiser and stronger were the disciples after this experience?  It must have been a terrifying experience and they must have learned a great lesson.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  (Hebrews 12:11 TNIV)

As Jesus and His friends entered the area of the Gersaenes, they were confronted by a sight might have put the faith of the 12 to the test, had they not just witnessed the power of Jesus manifested.

1.  The man’s awful state

 The description of the possessed man paints a terrible word-picture far worse than any Hollywood movie could depict.

When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.  (Luke 8:27 NIV84)

For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.   (Luke 8:29 NIV84)

(a)    Shameless

 Here is the classic description of a demon possessed person.  The symptoms appear to be very similar to certain types of mental illness, but the text does not say the man was mentally ill, it says he was demon possessed.  The Jews knew the difference and certainly Luke – a physician –  knew the difference.  We can be absolutely certain that this man was not mentally ill, but spiritually possessed.

How bad off was this man?  He ran around a graveyard completely naked.  He was so occupied by evil spirits  that he was either unaware or unconcerned that he was naked.  Adam and Eve, the first sinners ever, knew they were naked and sought some kind of covering.  But here is evidence of how far this man had sunk into his sin and degradation.  He lived shamelessly.

(b)  Friendless

Being completely in league with the Devil, he was cut off from anybody he ever had a relationship with and who cared for him:  family and friends.  Sin always isolates us from each other.  Any parent knows this; when their child becomes distant and unusually quiet, that parent can be sure junior is into things he shouldn’t be.

Look at how pathetic this man was:  he had no fellowship with his friends or family, so he was drawn to living among the dead in a cemetery.  Even there, he could find no fellowship among the dead.  What a miserable person this man had become.

(c)  Helpless

He was “seized” or “driven” by the demon.  The possessed man was completely wild and unmanageable.  He had become like a wild beast, driven by the powerful impulses of the demons within.  There was nothing anybody could do for him.

2.  His attitude toward Christ

When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, dont torture me!   (Luke 8:28 NIV84)

 In a word, the demon possessed man’s attitude toward Christ was:  surprising.

(a)    Fear

 The man “fell at [Jesus’] feet.”  The KJV gives us a different flavor:

But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him… (Mark 5:6 KJV)

The closer one gets to Christ – even a sinner as bad as this demon possessed man – the more the thoughts and intents of that sinner are revealed.  Those who are stuck under the dominion of their sins know who Christ is; they are conscious of His presence and they know they cannot escape Him.

Was this man “worshiping” Jesus as we think of what worship is?  Or did he simply fall down, or perhaps he threw himself down, at Jesus’ feet?   The KJV may have overstated what the man did, but one thing is certain:  the demon possessed man, as sinful and as “totally depraved” as he had become, understood something the disciples hadn’t:  he knew who Jesus was:  the Son of God.  The disciples only got this far:

Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.  (Luke 8:25b NIV84)

 (b)  Opposition

 The demon possessed man cried out defiantly:  “What do you want with  me?”  Obviously the demons infesting this man knew that Jesus was bad news for them.  The demons feared Jesus and they were defiant to His face.  But what was the “link” that drew the sin-loving man to the sin-hating Christ?  What was the thing that connected the two?  It was the love of God in Christ.  These two men had nothing in common.  Jesus, from above, the demon possessed man, from below.  Separated from each other by an impassable gulf of sin.  But the love of God bridged that gulf and placed Jesus in the way of this man.

(c)  Entreaty

The demon possessed man came close to Jesus, and the demon(s) begged Jesus not to torture him (them).  Again, we are struck by the knowledge of the demons versus the ignorance of the disciples.  The implication in Luke is that Jesus had commanded the demon(s) to come out of the man and they were “scared to death” of where they would go.  Likely the demon(s) thought they were to be sent to the bottomless pit to be tortured for all eternity.

At this point, it would be beneficial to point out that not one, but multiple sentient beings are dealt with here.  First, and most obvious, the demons are being dealt with by our Lord.  Almost every teaching and sermon dwells on Legion.  Often overlooked is the man himself.  While the demons cried out to Jesus, it was the man who approached Him.  Why would a man suffering greatly under the influence of demons, come close to Jesus?  He was hoping for help.  What other reason could there have been?  This demon possessed man, though possessed by many demons, still had presence of mind to recognize the possibility of help when he saw it.

Most of us are not demon possessed, but we are all sinners, and we all know the desire to live right but the seeming inability to do so.  Both Christians and non-Christians struggle with this.  The Christian is often torn.  He is dead to sin, yet he is still tempted to sin and sometimes gives in to that temptation.  The unbeliever, though not saved, may still want to live moral and ethical lives but they are torn between the desire to do that and the overwhelming urge to sin.

There is a school of theology that teaches the sinner must stop loving sin before coming to Jesus for salvation.  If this story teaches anything, it’s the opposite.  This “totally depraved” man, full of demons, still had the presence of mind to come to Jesus for help.    What a helpful, encouraging lesson.  Though no man can bring about his own salvation, Jesus can see the heart of any man and He, through a mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, is able to “draw all men to Himself.”

 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.   (John 12:32 NIV84)

 3.  The man’s complete deliverance

 (a)    Confession

 Jesus asked him, What is your name? Legion, he replied, because many demons had gone into him.”  (Luke 8:30 NIV84)

 Clearly Jesus knew all about the demons.  Why did He ask them an unnecessary question?  Jesus wanted to make the demon possessed aware of the seriousness of his present condition.  This man had been “lost in himself” for so long; now he needed to be brought back to his real self; he needed to have his consciousness strengthened.  This man, after all, though he had come to identify himself with the demons that inhabited him, was not a demon.  He was a man.

Jesus was able to get the demons to make a startling confession:  they were many!   They say “confession is good for the soul,” and when it comes to God, it never does anybody any good to hide anything from Him!  The demons needed to be taught to obey The Lord, and the man needed to hear the truth.  He was full of things not natural to human beings.

(b)  Emancipation

 …and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.   (Luke 8:35 NIV84)

 The demons were driven completely from the man’s body and into a herd of pigs.  Many Bible readers get stuck on this point:  why pigs?  And the answer everybody thinks is so clever is:  pigs are unclean animals, so who cares about the pigs?   But there is a greater issue at work here, one that Jesus was aware of, which is why He sent the demons into the pigs.  Somebody owned these pigs; they belonged to somebody.  The owners of these pigs needed to be taught a lesson:  all things belong to God.   Besides, the owners of these pigs, like everybody else in the community, were selfish.  They considered a herd of pigs of greater value than the salvation of one man.  Upon learning that the demons went into the herd of pigs, the people responded like this:

Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.  (Luke 8:37 NIV84)

 They were overcome with fear; fear that they might lose even more property!

But this man, for his part in the story, was set gloriously free.  The salvation that Jesus provides is complete and lacks nothing.  When you are saved, you are delivered from whatever sin held you in is its grip.  Not only that, a born again individual wants to follow Jesus, like this man did:

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him…  (Luke 8:38 NIV84)

A newly born again person  wants to be in the presence of Jesus all the time.  That may make the newly saved person feel good, but what good does that do anybody else?  Jesus drives the point home:

Return home and tell how much God has done for you. So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.  (Luke 8:39 NIV84)

(c)  Witness

 There was no denying that God had done a great thing for this man, and this man had to testify; he had to tell people what God did for him.  It’s all part of being a Christian:  bearing witness for Jesus Christ.  People need to hear about the goodness of God, so why not from you?  Even though Jesus Himself heeded the town’s people request to leave, the man Jesus set free became the first Gentile missionary!


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