Then they sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, He was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothing or lived in a house, but he stayed in the tombs. Luke 8:26-27 (NASB)
The story of the demon possessed man is a difficult story in our modern times. Many sceptics have dismissed it as ancient people not understanding mental health and what we now call epilepsy. I am going to nail my colours to the mast here and say that such an explanation is inaccurate. The story presented in the gospels that we are about to discuss has elements beyond the control of man, that can only be explained supernaturally. Personally in the past I have witnessed demons at work, there is no doubt what is happening in such moments can’t be explained away by any theories.
The story happens in a region between two cities in the region of Gerasenes. It is countryside, rural coastal land. Our subject lives in the tombs outside the city which were often large caves, often used by those seeking safe shelter either due to illness or even criminals. Differences in the gospels regarding this story don’t cause any problems, the main story is still told in all accounts. Whether one man or several men come out the tombs is not significant, the conversation is with a specific individual.
As Jesus approaches from the shore he is met by the demoniac. The text suggests that this man’s condition was new, that he had formerly lived in the city and may have been a prominent man. The fact that despite living in the tombs, he was shackled and guarded also suggests importance and care. This would explain Luke’s account focussing on one individual, this man may have been known by those who originally read the story. Remember that Jesus has just arrived and that they have never met, yet the man addresses Jesus “What do You want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You not to torture me!” The physical voice is the man, but the real voice is that of a demon. Jesus speaks authoritatively to the demons and they address Him submissively, begging not to be sent to Hell. Being sent into a herd of pigs was freedom for the demons once the herd plunged to their death into the lake. The poor herders were terrorised by the sight of their usually docile pigs dying so violently, they ran away towards the city to tell the shocking news.
When people arrived they were met by two sights that confirmed the herders story, thousands of pig carcasses on the shoreline and that of the demoniac sitting clothed in good health. Take note this man chose to sit by the feet of Jesus – an example to anyone saved by Jesus. The people who saw these things were afraid, and feared for their lives. This seems strange but I understand it, I have seen people fearful on hearing the gospel who fled from it. The people beg Jesus to leave them, which He does.
Dear reader, take heart from the example of the man at the centre of the story. He had sat at Jesus’s feet and now wanted to go with Him. Who can imagine his anguish, he has met his Saviour and now He was leaving! Jesus gently encourages him to go tell his family what God has done for Him, which he does and then more. He tells his family and then the whole city what Jesus the Messiah had done for him! Do we have such love for our Lord, and zeal for His gospel?