“When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left” (Luke 8:35-37, NIV)
This series of devotions, Untold Tenets, captures its lessons from lesser-known and sometimes overlooked scriptures that are embedded within or immediately following a well-known bible story or biblical text.
In this well-known and powerful story of demonic possession and exorcism, Jesus purposely went to a Gentile region and ministered there. As He got out of the boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee, a man possessed by many demons ran up to Jesus screaming and begging Jesus not to torture them or send them to the underworld prison of evil spirits.
When Jesus cast out the demons, He gave them permission to possess a herd of pigs that was nearby. As the multitude of demons possessed the pigs the entire herd then plunged down a hillside and into the lake and drowned.
The herdsmen saw all this and fled to the nearby town and told the people what happened. A crowd of people came from the town to see what happened. They observed that the man who had been possessed by the demons and had terrorized the countryside now was sitting at the feet of Jesus, fully clothed and perfectly sane.
Now you would think the Gerasenes would be relieved that this formerly possessed man was now exorcised of his demons and in his right mind. Instead, they begged Jesus to leave!
While this story describes an astounding and miraculous event, what’s most astonishing is that people witnessed it and saw first-hand the the mercy and power of God exhibited in their midst and they outright rejected it!
Undoubtedly, much of the Gerasenes’ reticence towards Jesus was financially motivated. It’s likely some or much of their livelihood was dependent on the herd of pigs that just committed suicide!
They thought that having Jesus around will hurt the economy. He causes disruption. He changes things. He even changes people.
We’ve always done it this way and we don’t need Jesus coming in here and changing the social and economic order.
So, the Gerasenes chose to perpetuate their own unredeemed existence!
Although the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave town, Jesus wouldn’t be denied and He still provided them with a path to redemption: “The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you. So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him” (vs. 38-39).
Jesus loves all people–even those who don’t want to change, who don’t think they need a Savior. Or, especially those who don’t think they need a Savior.
In the following story (Luke 8:40-56) Jesus returns to Galilee and the crowd welcomes Him! Jesus performs a spectacular miracle–raising a little girl from the dead–and then commands her parents not to tell anyone. Yet, He had instructed the demon-possessed man to tell his family all about his miraculous exorcism.
The region of the Gerasenes was a gentile region. It’s quite possible that He performed a miracle there and then told them to tell about it so that they would believe in His divinity. By contrast the Jews already believed in a Messiah and miracles could facilitate a power play for zealous Jews to try to make him an earthly king or could debunk His ministry as being of demonic origins.
Yes, our merciful God wants to redeem all people and especially those who think they don’t need a Redeemer.
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3, NIV).