After their eventful night out on the water, Jesus and his disciples neared the opposite shore of the Sea of Galilee. Dawn was breaking over the horizon and they were, no doubt exhausted after a long night of excitement.
As they waded onto shore and hauled their boat onto the pebbled beach, they were confronted with yet another terrifying ordeal. Two men, crazed and naked rushed at them. Their hair was long and matted, their wrists bore the remnants of shackles that had been ripped apart. They shrieked and tore at their already bloodied flesh and their wild eyes fixed on Jesus and his disciples.
The men were well known to locals as being demoniacs. They lived among the tombs that dotted the hillsides that overlooked the sea and would often terrorize anyone that ventured along the winding paths that ran through the area.
Oppressed by terrible mental and emotional agony, inflicted upon them by the demons who possessed them, the men were known to mutilate themselves, tear off their clothing and rip apart any restraints that were used to bind them.
When the disciples saw these men tearing towards them their first instinct was to turn tail and run. They were probably emotionally and physically exhausted after the adrenaline rush of the night before. A nice warm meal and a soft bed were most likely the only things they really wanted and yet here they were being confronted by two mad men, who for all intents and purposes seemed to be possessed by devils.
This was not something they wanted to tackle. But as usual, Jesus’ response was different. He was probably as tired and as drained as his disciples were but the sight of the two men moved him to compassion instead of terror.
Jesus was not afraid of the raving manifestations of demons. He was the Creator of the Universe and he had just commanded the wind and the waves. While He was fully human, He was also fully Divine and He understood the reality of His identity as both the Son of Man and the Son of God.
He faced the threat without an ounce of fear, peeling back the layers of the situation to separate the malice of the demons from the innocent sufferers they were tormenting. When the men reached Jesus and his disciples, the demons spoke through them. Addressing Jesus the demon cried “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me”
Calmly and without hesitation Jesus responded “Come out of the man, unclean Spirit”. Jesus didn’t engage in a conversation with the devil. He didn’t try to understand him or reason with him. He simply commanded him to leave the man that he was tormenting.
Before the demons could leave the men Jesus asked them a single question “What is your name?” to which they answered “My name is Legion; for we are many” Then the demons begged Jesus for a favor. They asked him to not send them away from the area but, seeing a herd of pigs feeding in the nearby hills begged “Send us to the swine so that we may enter them”. Jesus gave them permission and, leaving the men, the demons entered the pigs, causing the entire herd to run violently down the steep hillside and drown in the sea.
The keepers of the swine gaped in shock as their charges, flung themselves over a cliff and drowned in an apparent suicide. It was not just the suddenness of their death but the incalculable loss of income that drove the men to dismay. They ran down the hillside and back to the nearby city, telling the story to anyone who would listen.
Before long almost the entire town came down to the beach to see what had happened. What they saw were two men who had previously lost in a delirious fog of madness, sitting quietly on the beach, clothed and in their right mind.
But the townsfolk overlooked the obvious miracle. Human life didn’t matter to them as much as financial gain and they couldn’t risk entertaining Jesus in their region if he was going to cost them so much income. They begged him to leave.
Their response to Jesus’ miraculous healing of the two men is a testament to how little value is placed upon human life in light of potential monetary gain. Jesus didn’t wait around to rebuke them. He simply motioned for his disciples to get the boat ready to leave.
Meanwhile the men who had been healed, followed Jesus begging him to take them with Him but Jesus shook his head “Go home to your friends” he said “and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you”
Jesus sent them out as missionaries, knowing that the best way they could honor his gift to them was to pay if forward by helping others to believe in Him too. The men took up the challenge and went about the entire region of Decapolis testifying of what Jesus had done for them.
In fact they prepared the ground so solidly that when Jesus came back to Decapolis later there were a lot of people who were ready to hear what he had to say.
When Jesus saw the demoniacs, their brokenness, anguish and despair didn’t repulse him. Their pain didn’t cause him to look away. Instead it was the sorry state they were in that drew Him closer. Jesus draws close to us in our brokenness and pain. The ugly parts of ourselves that have been bred by sin don’t repulse Him. He sees them all and longs to bring us the healing we so deeply and desperately need.
Human life mattered more to Jesus than financial gain. He could have cast out the demons and sent them packing without allowing them to enter the swine but he allowed the pig fiasco for a reason. He understood how deeply materialistic the people in that region were and he wanted to jolt them awake before it was too late. As much as he cared about the demoniacs, to an equal degree he cared about the men who owned the pigs. He knew their business was a stumbling block, standing in the way of the eternal well being of their souls and he took action.
Sometimes Jesus allows us to suffer loss because He knows that those losses will set us free to pursue a path that is more conducive to our spiritual well being. He understands the stealthy ways that sin can sink tendrils into our hearts and grow roots and in His love he seeks to uproot the distractions that can easily turn us away from Him.
As soon as the demoniacs experienced the power of God changing their lives Jesus sent them out to share the joy of that transformation with others. The best way to keep them from encountering that kind of evil again was to actively engage in sharing the good news with others. As someone wise once said “Strength to resist evil is best gained through active service”
It is by actively working to set others free that we ourselves experience freedom from the shackles that bind us.
The story of the demoniacs is a demonstration of Satan’s malice towards us. It is his design to destroy us, to torment us, to break us down physically, mental and spiritually. But Jesus longs to save us. He longs to heal us and empower us to reach our fullest potential, if only we are willing to place our lives and our hearts in His hands.