Luke 8:26-39 NASB
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me." For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.
Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission. And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country.
The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned. But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, "Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
My thoughts -
Usually when I read this I get a little outraged at the people's response to this healing. Jesus has taken a man from their community who was severely afflicted and has healed him. He has taken a demon possessed man and restored him. He has taken a situation that was broken beyond any hope for repair and has fixed it. In doing so it cost this community some of their livestock. Outraged at this and terrified they ask Jesus to leave.
And yes, all of that is in there. Maybe the people were upset about the pigs. This is, of course, no small loss in an agrarian economy. That shouldn't be as big a concern as the miracle that was this man's restoration, but still. I can understand the reaction. It is lamentable but natural. People do this sort of thing all the time.
But also, they were afraid. Afraid of what? My thinking originally was that they were afraid this Jesus fellow would cost them even more. But maybe it's not that. Maybe, as sad as this situation was, they got used to it. This poor, broken, possessed man was all they knew of him. That's what he had become. His possession was the new normal. Unfortunate, sure. But normal. This is what they were used to. Jesus shook that all up. He changed things. He upset the normal order of things. Change can be a dangerous thing and Jesus's very presence brought about some pretty drastic change in a hurry.
Jesus's very presence in our lives brings about some pretty significant changes. These should be evident. They should be almost alarming. There is great power for change here. It can be unsettling. But it is far better to live unchained, free from our normal, comfortable, oppressive sin. The man who called himself Legion was far better off with the change that Jesus brought about, after all.
A couple of other things jump out here. I had read before that the demons asked Jesus to have mercy on them. I had read before that Jesus had granted their request to go into the pigs. But, while this is an integral part of this story it never really hit me. Jesus had mercy on demons. Maybe I'm reading this all wrong but I just can't see that exchange any other way. Did Jesus care more about what happened to these demons than he did the local economy? Did he care more about the demons than the pigs? What should we make of this? I have no idea.
One last thing here. You read all throughout the gospels where Jesus heals people and then tells them to keep it a secret. It's a big deal. He doesn't want word to get out. Don't tell anyone. Yet the man now formerly known as Legion wants to leave home and follow Jesus and Jesus tells him to stay and to "describe what great things God has done for you."
That's a pretty good command, isn't it? Far better, I think, than "don't tell anyone". Jesus brought about change in this man's life. And then Jesus commanded this man to tell everyone what God has done for him. The difference I suppose is that the man was a gentile living with other gentiles. Now we have an evangelism strategy here.