Jesus and Legion
The meeting between Jesus and Legion is fascinating. Jesus converses with the demon and then banishes him into a herd of pigs. The story is exciting and curious, and there are important lessons to be learned. The account is found in Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.
Jesus is preaching in Galilee and has just crossed the Sea of Galilee in a boat. During the crossing a terrible storm frightened his disciples into fearing for their lives. Jesus rebuked the winds and waves, the storm ended and calm descended on the waters. Jesus had demonstrated his authority over the elements of nature. Now, stepping onto the rocky bank of the eastern shore of the sea, Jesus is confronted by a man of some local notoriety. The man was possessed. His life was a miserable existence. He wore no clothes and lived among the tombs perhaps sheltering in them during inclement weather. The man immediately confronts Jesus and the disciples. Within minutes, the demons are cast out into nearby pigs which rush headlong into the sea and drown. The narrative provides important learning for us.
Demons are real.
The story is recorded here by all three of the synoptic writers. The Bible describes them as demons and notes Jesus interaction with them. Demons were objects of worship in the Bible (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 1 Timothy 4:1). The New Testament also records the existence of demons with the word occurring in 68 verses. In most cases, the demons are objects of God’s power to be cast out of men for God’s own glory. Some would wish to ignore the existence of demons and think only on good things. But Satan and his underlings are real.
Demons are not all powerful.
Hollywood, from the days of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, have given us the impression that Satan and his demons are as powerful as God himself. But here we see otherwise. In Luke 8:28, the demons came before Jesus and “fell down before him.” This is an act of contrition; it is an act of submission. The demon then begged Jesus not to torment him. The word “beg” translates the Greek, deomai, which means to ask with urgency and with an implied need. The demon knew he needed Jesus’ help and submitted to him.
Demons know and worship the Lord.
It is striking to see a demon bowing before Jesus. We are also caught a bit off-guard when the demon speaks to Jesus and calls him by name. Knowing who Jesus is and even feigning worship to him is simply not sufficient. This echoes James’ statement from James 2:19: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!” Mere believe, apart from obedience is useless (James 2:20).
This small story really sums up the entirety of the book of Revelation. Despite the trouble Satan causes, despite the pain he brings, Jesus always wins. When the demons asked Jesus to send them into the nearby swine, Luke simply says Jesus “gave them permission´(Luke 8:32). The demons entered the pigs and they rushed into the sea and were destroyed. The man is next seen sitting clothed at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind. This event was so powerful that the people asked Jesus to leave the region because they feared his great power.
While this is an interesting story, it has a purpose. Like all miraculous acts, the purpose was to build faith in Christ, confirm his words and teachings, and to make more disciples. The formerly possessed man begs Jesus to allow him to travel with him but the Lord says no. “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
What a joy to serve a Lord that can command demons to depart! There is none greater than our Lord!