Continuing our study of the Gospel of Luke, last Sunday I preached from Luke 8:26-39. In this passage Jesus casts out a legion of demons from a man on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee. In doing so, he permits the demons to enter into a herd of pigs, who immediately go berserk, rush down into the sea, and drown. But the man, now free from his demonic oppression, is completely healed: no longer naked and roaming about the tombs, he’s clothed and in this right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
This is without question the worst case of demon possession recorded in the Gospels. A “legion” was a Roman military unit consisting of about 6,000 men. When the demon told Jesus his name was legion, he meant that along with him were thousands of other unclean spirits. And all of them took up residence in this poor soul. If anything can fairly be described as “hell on earth,” this would be it. And just as the people of that region were helpless to restrain the man from his demonic roaming about the desert and the tombs, so the man was helpless to rid himself of these evil spirits. He was as good as dead, and seemingly lost forever to the power of Satan.
But even a legion of demons cannot stand against the authority and power of the incarnate Son of God. At the command of Christ, the spirits left the man and fled into the herd of swine. Just as he did on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus ruled over the winds and waves, so here he revealed his divine power by ruling over the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).
And in both cases Jesus used his power to save. He delivered the disciples from the storm that would have killed them, and he delivered this man from the demons who had tormented him. He proved himself, again, the true Savior of man.
And he continues to save people from the powers of evil. I don’t believe actual demon possession is anywhere near as common today as it was in the days of Jesus, but as sinners we are still very much liable to the baneful influence of the forces of darkness. Satan still brings ruin to the lives of those who give themselves over to sin. He is a cruel master, who is satisfied with nothing less than the eternal destruction of human souls. But – praise God! – Jesus Christ is a merciful Savior who came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). He frees us from the power of Satan, sin, and death, that we might be possessed by his Holy Spirit and enjoy the fullness of life that is found in Christ.
But this salvation is only for those who recognize their spiritual brokenness and need. Sadly, the people of the region where the demon-possessed man lived asked Jesus to go away (v.37). They may have been relieved that the man who terrorized them was healed, but they wanted nothing to do with the One who healed him. What an irony! The man who was lost, utterly broken by the power of demons, was saved by the grace of Jesus. But the others, who were “normal” and always “had it together,” rejected that grace and so ended up being the lost ones.
The lesson for us is: we must recognize our great spiritual need. We may not be possessed by a legion of demons, but as long as we are apart from Christ we are just as lost. If by God’s grace you see how tremendous your own need is for forgiveness and life, then Christ will come and heal you, just as he did the demoniac on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
As I prepared my sermon on this passage, “coincidentally” a podcast I subscribe to came out with a new issue dedicated to the whole topic of demon possessions. For a biblically sound – and even entertaining (!) – take on this subject, click here.
Soli Deo Glori!