Jesus and Legion

by Bryant Evans on October 21, 2012

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 ; and .

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 (; ; ; ; ). 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 , 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 : “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!” Mere believe, apart from obedience is useless ().

Jesus wins!

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´(). 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!

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28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. (ESV)

5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And 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. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And 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.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (ESV)

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then 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. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 Then 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. 38 The 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. (ESV)

So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations. (ESV)

17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,
to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come recently,
whom your fathers had never dreaded. (ESV)

37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons; (ESV)

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (ESV)

4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (ESV)

28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” (ESV)

19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (ESV)

20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (ESV)

32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. (ESV)

{ 8 comments }

Samuel Thrasher October 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Great article, as always. I think its also interesting to note that Jesus did NOT torment the demon, when it was completely in his power to do so. Instead, he allowed the demon, who was an enemy of the faith, to flee. Instead of revenge, Jesus showed mercy.

Bryant Evans October 22, 2012 at 6:14 am

Thank you Sam, good thoughts!

Dave Moser October 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm

“Worship” is probably the wrong label. Legion correctly identifies Jesus as “Son of the Most High God” but, as you note, that is a far cry from actual worship.

Bryant Evans October 24, 2012 at 10:37 am

Hi Dave, thanks for coming. I say worship because he did fall before the Lord and did acknowledge his superiority. Nevertheless, he was not worship correctly and indeed his concern was all for himself, among other things.

Greta October 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

This is such a great article. Yes, Jesus is powerful, and I believe in my faith. Demon is everywhere, but if you firmly believe in Jesus, you will be saved. Thanks for sharing this story…

Bryant Evans October 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

Thank you Greta. Satan certainly seeks those he can get to destroy them. You are correct; we are saved when an active, living faith leads to obedience to Jesus Christ.

Colin Lambert October 30, 2012 at 1:26 am

Hi Bryant,

Demons were real in Jesus’ day. Do you think they are real today? If they are real, do you think Jesus has given us authority to cast them out today?
Have you ever seen one driven out, or driven out one yourself?

Colin Lambert

Bryant Evans November 4, 2012 at 5:52 am

I’m going to defer giving a lengthy answer here because I am hoping to finish a piece on demons soon. As most people think of possession and exorcism, no I don’t think that happens today. But there are forces at work and we can, voluntarily, give ourselves over to Satan.

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