Luke 8:26–39 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
Deliverance of the Demoniac
Today's text teaches us much about the demonic forces that oppose our Lord and his church. We'll begin by reviewing the setting, while looking at the events surrounding the deliverance of the demoniac as Luke describes them and Matthew and Mark accentuate them. We'll also consider the "tension of the text," which ought to help with the interpretation and meaning of this miraculous event. Finally, we'll consider the nature of Legion's and his fellow-towns peoples' fear, hoping to learn about fear in us.
The Demon-Possessed Man Gets Delivered
As we learned last week, at the end of Jesus' teaching one day, he had his disciples set out for the other side of the lake; on their journey across the lake, a great storm arose, threatening the boat and its passengers. After Jesus had stilled the storm, the boat continued on to the other side of the lake. It's here that today's story picks up; as Jesus steps out of the boat, a demoniac appears.
The disciples' hearts were still pounding from the scare they'd had due to the storm. The solitude of the lonely shore was probably a welcome scene, after experiencing the crowds that had gathered along the other shore. No one probably gave a thought as to why no people were around, or why the road, which led to the nearby town, was empty. There, on the hill, was a cemetery of sort; neither the road nor the cemetery was being used, because two demoniacs dwelt nearby and no one felt safe to pass by them (Matthew 8:28). The townspeople had tried to contain and control the men, even using chains, but their superhuman strength proved too much for the chains (v. 29, shown below).
The two men and the townspeople seemed to have come to an understanding. Both men would live in seclusion,unable to hurt anyone, and the townspeople would leave them alone. The place where Jesus had landed was, by common consent, a no-man's land. Matthew alone tells us that there were two demoniacs, not just one as Mark and Luke report. Both say that this man, once restored to sanity, became a follower of our Lord, and both tell us of only one demoniac, likely because both were interested in his faith, which the second demoniac seemingly didn't possess.
As we relive this incident with a demoniac and a herd of swine, we need to recall that the whole scenario was being witnessed by "pig pokes" or "hog herders" who saw everything from their elevated vantage point. They knew, of course, that the demoniacs were nearby (no doubt keeping their distance, too) and that no one ever used this road, nor did anyone land on the shore near the graveyard. They watched the two demoniacs swoop down on the unsuspecting disciples, shrieking in a way that would chill anyone's blood. How they must have marveled at seeing the two demoniacs fall before Jesus! How their faces must have shown bewilderment as they overheard the demoniacs' statements, screamed loudly enough for them to hear, even from their distance, declaring Jesus to be the Son of the Most High God! And then, can you imagine the uneasiness of these herdsmen when they saw both demoniacs turn in their direction, and point toward their herd of hogs?
As Luke's demoniac rushed downhill from the tombs toward Jesus, eyes crazed, screaming at the top of his lungs, it must have been a frightening sight for the disciples. Perhaps they considered jumping on the man as a group, hoping to have the combined strength to contain him. The demoniac seemed only to see or care about Jesus; as he drew near to him, he fell to his knees. As this man speaks, it's not the man, but the inner demons who are in control. Thus, it's the demons who address our Lord.
It's important to note that although the demoniac fell at Jesus' feet, that wasn't then an act of worship, as it would later be when the demons were cast from the man. The demons certainly recognized Jesus' identity, also acknowledging his superiority and authority over them, realizing that he could do with them as he pleased. Their petitions were addressed as those of inferior beings to One who was infinitely superior to them. Notice the following characteristics of fear that are evident in Legion's words.
1. Legion was fearful of the presence of God. The fear that Legion felt is very different from that of the disciples, in the midst of [last week's] storm. The disciples were fearful because they didn't realize that God was with them in the boat, while the demons are fearful because they knew that God was present among them. Their first words to Jesus are a testimony to the fact that they recognized him as the "Son of the Most High God" (v. 28). They were frightened because they knew that God was in their midst!
2. The demons were fearful of torment and of the judgment of God. Why would the appearance of Jesus on the other shore of the Sea of Galilee cause fear for the demons? Because they knew that the coming of God's Messiah spelled destruction for them.
3. The demons were frightened by the timing of Jesus' coming. They knew that their time would eventually come, but they didn't expect it to come so soon.
4. The demons were fearful of the outcome of Christ's coming for the man they'd demonized. The demons dreaded the deliverance of the demoniac.
5. The demons feared disembodiment. Jesus almost immediately began to command the demons to come out of the man. They, just as quickly, began to plead for "mercy." They knew better than to ask Jesus to permit them to continually possess this man, although that was their hope. Demons would naturally prefer to possess people; their destructive work would give them greater pleasure, and they could more fully manifest themselves this way. To be dispossessed of a body was, to a demon, torment. Disembodied spirits couldn't as fully display themselves as they could through a body.
6. The demons feared the restriction of their freedom to continue their destructive work. It would seem that the sending of demons "into the Abyss" (v. 31) amounted to torment; for demons, torment is defined as "being kept from doing evil." Demons delighted in doing evil. Torture, for them, amounted to being hindered from torturing people. Since they loved to do evil, and since Jesus was both good and God, they knew that his coming would hinder them from continuing to do evil.
Jesus granted the demons' request to enter the herd of swine; when they entered them, the entire herd plunged, headlong, into the sea and drowned. Interestingly, the disciples feared drowning in that very sea one day earlier.
When the pigs plunged into the sea, there was little doubt as to what had happened. The herdsmen left to tell all who would listen about what had happened. As a result, the entire town arrived on the scene to look for the swine, but most importantly to see the Son of God, who'd come to their shores. Now, look carefully at Luke's report (vv. 35–37), which squares with Matthew's and Mark's. . .
Fear, Fear, and More Fear
Several observations are critical to your understanding of why the people of the Gerasenes region rejected Jesus and asked him to leave their country: 1. All of the people of the nearby town came out to meet Jesus; all, the whole town went out to meet Jesus (Matt. 8:34). 2. The people were overcome with fear; when they came to Jesus, they saw the man who'd been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind — they were afraid. 3. Out of fear, all the people asked Jesus to leave their country; unanimously, they wanted Jesus to not only stay away from their town, but to leave their country. 4. The peoples' fears aren't in response to the drowned swine, but due to the miraculous change in "Legion," the delivered demoniac; the fear wasn't one of economic loss, since it wasn't only the owners but the entire town who came to see Jesus. Here's the "tension of the text," that hopefully helps you interpret the passage and discover its meaning: How can so many people in a region be more frightened of Jesus than of the demoniac, causing them to want things to return as they were, having Jesus leave rather than stay with them? How can people fear the Son of God for the good he did more than fear Satan and his demonic host who do evil? 5. The fears of the people are similar to the fears of the demoniac, before he was delivered from demon possession; the Gerasene demoniac and the Gerasene-dwellers share one thing in common — the fear of the Lord Jesus Christ; although it isn't clearly stated, it seems obvious that they'd rather have the demoniac as he once was — detrimental and frightening — than to have him as a cleansed human — sane, clothed, and a contributing member of society.
As the demoniac feared the good that Jesus was about to do — namely his deliverance — so did the people of that region fear the power of the Lord Jesus to do good for them. Ultimately, the people feared that Jesus' coming would bring significant change, not only for the demoniac, but for them, a change they didn't want and didn't feel they needed.
Jesus left the area with only a single convert. Why?
Because all people, even messed-up people — especially messed-up people — are very precious to the Saving Man from Nazareth. Don't forget it! Jesus' disciples never did.
- Q. 1 Why might you feel the need to apologize for helping one person only, as Jesus did on this occasion?
- Q. 2 Why did the healed man want to go with Jesus? Why didn't Jesus let him?
New International Version (NIV)
[To view it in a different version, click here; also listen to chapter 8.]
† Watch this passage-specific video clip from Jesus Film Project titled "Healing of the Demoniac."
Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man
26They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27When 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. 28When 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, don't torture me!" 29For Jesus had commanded the impure 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.
30Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
32A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35and 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. 36Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37Then 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.
38The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39"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.