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Bible GenevaContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

This post concludes Luke’s story of the Gadarene swine, one which everyone used to know, particularly the line ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’ (Mark 5:9). You can read the first part here.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (‘The Maniac Who Became a Missionary’, Part 2).

Luke 8:34-39

34When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“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.

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Last week’s post described the confrontation between Jesus and the demons which inhabited the man from the region of Gerasa or Gadara, depending on which Gospel you read. Matthew used the latter name in his account.

We also discovered that although demons were mentioned once in Genesis 6 and — after our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven — in Acts 16 and 19, the Gospels have several accounts of demon-inhabited humans. Those demons confronted Jesus, who displayed sovereignty over them every time. In the case of the man from Gadara / Gerasa, an army of them inhabited him. It is possible that he had one and, when Jesus appeared, they multiplied in an effort to defeat Him. As we read last week, they gave their name through the man’s voice (Luke 8:30):

30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him.

Afraid of being destroyed, they asked to inhabit a nearby herd of swine — pigs. Jesus allowed this. The demons’ power caused the pigs to run over a steep bank and they ran into the Sea of Galilee to their death.

We now find out what happened next. It is helpful to read what the other two Synoptic Gospels say. Here is Mark 5:14-20 (emphases mine, highlighting the differences):

14The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you. 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Matthew’s account tells us that the Lord healed two men of demons (Matthew 8:33-34):

33The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

Animal-rights activists and atheists use this healing miracle to complain that Jesus was cruel to animals. They overlook that He drove the demons out of the man (or men) into the herd of swine — animals, which have no souls. They do not rejoice that our Lord saved the soul(s) and sanity of the demon-possessed human(s) who was (were) a public menace of supreme physical strength. As we might say today, this person was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. He also cut himself with stones every day (Mark 5:5). Now who is cruel?

On now to Luke’s version of the story. After the drama of the herd of pigs meeting their demon-driven death, the herdsmen rushed around the surrounding area to tell everyone what happened (verse 34).

People then came to the scene of the miracle (verse 35). They saw Jesus with the man, previously notorious in the region, sitting calmly in clothes at Jesus’s feet (verse 36). They were fearful, not merely apprehensive or at a loss for words but deathly afraid. As Hebrews 10:31 says:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 

We read of Simon Peter (Luke 5:1-11) asking Jesus to depart from Him because he was unworthy. In that passage:

As the crowd was too great for Him to be seen and heard, He got into Simon’s fishing boat and urged him to sail a distance from the shore to better address those who had come to hear Him. Afterward, He told Simon to cast his net into the water to catch fish. Simon objected; he had already gone fishing there the night before and caught nothing. However, Simon relented and cast his net. The resulting catch was so great that it began to sink not only Simon’s boat but that of his partners, brothers James and John. Simon sensed his own sinfulness at the wonder of this miracle and told Jesus he was not worthy of being in His presence. Yet, Jesus told his new Apostle not to fear; soon he would be a fisher of men.

Whereas Simon Peter felt the fear of remorse in the face of the Almighty, the people in this story experienced a fear that, strangely, drove them to find comfort in their own sin and temporal complacency.

Did they express gratitude to Him? No. Instead, like true unbelievers, they asked Him to leave (verse 37).

Matthew Henry sums it up this way:

Those lose their Saviour, and their hopes in him, that love their swine better.

Let us pray we never fall into such a carnal trap.

This episode is an excellent illustration of man’s inherent urge to sin, a legacy of Original Sin which Adam and Eve passed on to us. All of us prefer sin to holiness.

John MacArthur says in his sermon on the subject:

What would you have done if you had been there that day? Would you have cherished and loved and clung to your sin and asked Jesus to go away? Or would you plead with Jesus to forgive your sin and deliver you the way He delivered that man? Look around you today. Here are the delivered right here. Hundreds of them. We…have been forgiven from sin and delivered from Satan. We are living testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to transform. Are you interested in that? Do you want to be delivered and rescued from sin and Satan and death and hell? Or do you cherish your sin and you cannot wait to get out of here? Would you rather be in the grip of Satan than God? Would you rather continue to live with what is unholy than what is holy?

He adds a warning about how we — clergy and laity — present the Gospel:

The Lord Jesus is either loved or hated when the truth is presented. And you can’t have it any other way. If you can figure out a way to present the gospel without causing people to love or hate, you’ve compromised the message.

Jesus returned to the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee (verse 37) but not before the newly healed man asked if He could take him along (verse 38).

Jesus responded by instructing the man to tell everyone what God has done for him, which he duly did (verse 39) in gratitude, joy and obedience.

Mark adds that the man travelled around the Decapolis (see map at right) — ten cities most of which were on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee — telling his story such that ‘everyone marvelled’ (Mark 5:20).

Matthew Henry concludes his commentary on this passage as follows:

We must sometimes deny ourselves the satisfaction even of spiritual benefits and comforts, to gain an opportunity of being serviceable to the souls of others. Perhaps Christ knew that, when the resentment of the loss of their swine was a little over, they would be better disposed to consider the miracle, and therefore left the man among them to be a standing monument, and a monitor to them of it.

Next time: Luke 8:40-48

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