1. What is the greatest evil you can imagine ever having to face? A gang of hateful
racists beating and raping and murdering? Terrorists randomly shooting-up a town and
slaughtering children? An evil scientist poisoning a water system or spreading nerve gas?
A terrible disease that drives a person mad with pain? Imprisoned by torturers in some
alien rat-infested jail?
2. Human thinking can imagine the worst. But it required no imagination for Jesus.
One memorable day he met evil head-on at a little town of northern Palestine. The story is
bizarre because it is a story about an encounter with evil.
I. Tragedy: demon-possessed man Luke 8:26-29
1. The man Jesus met was a mess. He was completely naked. He lived alone as an
uncontrollable wild-man in nearby caves that were used as burial tombs. When he ventured
out it was to frighten and attack more ordinary people. His encounter with Jesus was
probably intended to be just such an attack.
2. The local police had tried to restrain him by shackling his hands and feet and
placing him under 24-hour guard, but it never worked. His power was supernatural. He
broke every chain they used on him. He could overpower all the guards assigned to him.
This wild man could not be controlled. He was like a wild rabid dog who terrorized the
entire town where once he had lived.
3. But he really wasnt like an animal. As uncontrollable and frightening
looking as he was, this man was also brilliantly intelligent. He was more than
intelligent; he had supernatural insight. He saw Jesus and said, "What do you want
with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!"
Without any introduction, he knew Jesus name.
With a spiritual understanding that no one else seemed to have, he knew who Jesus was.
Jesus was no ordinary preacher or religious leader. He was straight out of heaven, the Son
of the Most High God. This man saw God in Jesus when others simply saw a man.
Without being told, he knew what Jesus was ready to do. Jesus the Son of God was
ready to confront the evil he encountered. And, he had the power to exact torture as
punishment. The man spoke words of fear.
4. What was the matter with this guy? He obviously was very ill. Something terrible
had taken over his life, driven him from his home, alienated him from his community and
made his whole life miserable.
Read this story to hundreds of millions of people from Asia, Africa, South America
and other parts of the world and they will tell you in a minute what was this mans
problem. They would say he was demon-possessed. The evil spirits had somehow gotten
inside of him and were running his life. It is a terrible and frightening tragedy,
although not terribly uncommon.
Read this story to hundreds of millions of Europeans and North Americans and they
will tell you that he was mentally ill. Some might even venture to offer a specific
diagnosis and attach a name to his disease. Others would say that there is not enough
detail to diagnose, but there is no doubt that some psychosis has seized his mind and
shattered his life. They would further explain that 2000 years ago what we call mental
illness was called demon-possession and the severity was rated by assigning smaller or
larger numbers. Mary Magdalene was less mentally ill with seven demons but this man was
more seriously with 6000 demons.
5. So, which is it? Mental illness or demon-possession? To this day there are
people who run the extremes of interpretation. Some deny that demons exist and some see
demons in absolutely everything that happens.
The truth is probably somewhere in between.
Certainly mental illnesses are common. They are not unlike other diseases of our bodies
which can be diagnosed, named and treated. People dont choose them.
Certainly demons are real. They are spirits that are the agents of evil. No amount of
modern sophistication can wish them away.
Perhaps you remember William Blattlys best selling novel that was turned into
a movie called The Exorcist. It is the story of a young girl who suffered awful
aberrations in her mind and her body. Her concerned parents took her to the family
physician, to medical specialists including psychiatrists. Every doctor referred her to
someone else because no one could figure out what was the matter with her and no treatment
made any difference. It was obvious that something was terribly wrong but modern medicine
had no adequate explanation or cure. Finally they called in a Roman Catholic priest who
was an exorcist. His diagnosis was demon-possession and the remedy was to cast the demon
out in the name of Jesus Christ.
It was a wise and a practical approach. They first considered every other lesser
interpretation. Demon-possession was the last diagnosis, never the first. When all other
possible explanations were exhausted they turned to the ultimate power and source of hope,
To do otherwise is risky.
Those whose first diagnosis is always demons are probably almost always wrong. They miss
out on the resources available through medicine and counseling and do further harm to
those already hurting. Spiritually, they always give first credit to Satan and evil . . .
when we should be giving Satan and evil as little credit as possible.
Those who refuse to believe in demons and always insist upon a natural and physical
explanation may be equally foolish. When human resources run out, we must turn to God to
fight the spiritual battles that are far beyond our intellect, understanding and powers.
What a tragedy to make people suffer when Jesus can help them.
II. Compassion: Jesus command Luke 8:29-33
1. When the miserable man in the story met Jesus, he encountered the compassion of God
himself. Jesus demonstrated what you might expect - - tough love. Jesus deeply cared
for the man and boldly confronted the evil. He loved the man and hated the sin.
2. Jesus immediately took charge. It looked and sounded like he was talking to the
man but he was really in conversation with the evil spirits that had taken over his body
Jesus asked his name. Not that he had to know. Not that he didnt know. But there
is a certain direct and intimate power that comes from knowing a persons name and
calling that person by name.
3. The answer was "Legion." We have no way of knowing if this was correct
or exactly what the name meant. After all, demons are pathologic liars. We do know that a
Legion was a 6000 soldier unit of the Roman army. It sounds like 6000 demons had set-up
housekeeping in this mans body. No wonder he was in such bad shape.
It reminds me of the news story of the house infested with 50,000 bees. At first
the people lived in the house with minimal bother - - just an occasional bee or two. Then
more bees and some stings. Then a constant humming sound. Then the realization that the
bees had completely taken over their home.
It seems unlikely to me that a demon could move into a persons body without
permission. Perhaps one demon wasnt too much of a problem. Then he brought his
friends . One became ten. Ten became one hundred. One hundred became one thousand. The man
no longer had control of his own body or life.
4. Whatever your understanding of what happened, the best part is that Jesus cared.
Jesus always cares. He hates the hurt that sickness and sin causes those whom he loves.
5. With the voice of a man and with the power of God, Jesus ordered the demons out. The
demons begged for mercy. They were afraid Jesus would rush them to the eternal abyss where
Satan and his demons are destined to eventually go. They wanted a reprieve.
6. Jesus ordered them out of the man and into a huge herd of pigs who stampeded over a
cliff and into the lake where they drowned.
What is the meaning of this? I really dont know. I think this story goes
beyond most of our understanding. It seems that Jesus tricked them and doomed them.
One thing does appear to be sure: Jesus valued the man more than the pigs. He
has been criticized ever since. Pigs in this Gentile area of Palestine were very valuable.
They were a source of great wealth. Somebody lost a lot of money and a lot of future
income. Jesus cared more about the man than about the money.
7. This story gives me great comfort and great peace. It tells me that Jesus cares
about me and about my problems. Jesus is willing to tackle what the police and shackles of
society cannot control. Jesus is smarter than all the physicians. Jesus hates the hurt in
my life and of others more than anyone else. Whether we are talking about physical
illness, mental illness or spiritual illness - - - Jesus is always there, always
compassionate, and always willing to speak against those things that hurt us the most.
III. Fear: peoples rejection Luke 8:34-37
1. What about the rest of the people in this small town?
"When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this
in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 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."
2. Its hard to figure out. The people should have been thrilled but they were
afraid. They should have embraced Jesus but they asked him to leave town. You would think
that they would have been delighted that the man who was terrorizing them was now as
normal as could be.
3. Their response was not all that unusual. Ive known families that were
distraught and destroyed by the abuse of drugs by a son or daughter. Then God took over
that sons or daughters life until the drugs were gone and the former addict
became a zealous vibrant Christian. The family should have been thrilled but was afraid.
They were afraid of too much religion. Afraid that this God-stuff was out of control.
4. The towns people made a quick assessment of the actions of Jesus and
everything seemed clear. With Jesus around demons would be less but business could go
bad. The whole swine industry could be destroyed. Life as they knew it could be turned
upside down. They preferred the comfortable old problems over the power of God Jesus would
5. Isnt this what lots of people do today? They wish they didnt have
the addiction. They wish they could get their lives back under control. They wish they
could clean up their act. They wish they could get rid of their sins. But they dont
want all that Jesus brings. He might cost them some money. He might mess with their
business. He might take over their town. It seems better to have the problems without
Jesus than risk having Jesus without the problems.
IV. Witness: telling what happened Luke 8:38-39
1. There was a totally different response from the once wild man. He didnt
care about the pigs. He was cured. Fear was gone. Control returned. Peace was present.
Jesus was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
2. He wanted out of there. He wanted to leave town right away - - with Jesus now
"The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent
him away, saying, Return home and tell how much God has done for you. So the
man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him."
3. Jesus told him to go home. Go back where you used to live. Move back in with
your wife and children, with your parents and neighbors. Let them see the change. Tell
them what God has done for you.
4. Frankly, this is Jesus routine answer. When he does something great in a
persons life that person may wish to leave family and friends behind and start a new
life just with Jesus. But Jesus almost always sends us home. He wants us to represent him.
He wants us to talk about him. He wants us to be his showcase of the difference Jesus
makes in a human life.
5. "So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for
1. So, what do we do with this story? How does what happened make a difference in
2. Let me ask you a question? What is this story most about to you?
If it is most about demons, you have completely missed the point.
The story is most about Jesus.
Some people see the demons. Some people see the Christ.
3. If your life is a mess, whether your demons are literal demons or the demons of
rage, lust, greed, hatred, addiction, illness or something else - - - - come meet Jesus. Ask
him for deliverance. Ask him to chase the demons out of your life. Ask him to forgive your
sins. Ask him to give you peace. Ask him to do whatever he compassionately will do for
4. And when Jesus makes his great difference in your life, be like the man who "went
away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him."
October 17-18, 1998 Wooddale Church, ©Copyright, Leith Anderson.