We also read about the Gerasene demoniac in Matthew’s Gospel, but I didn’t comment then knowing that Mark’s Gospel contains the most detailed report. Matthew reported two demon-possessed men (Matt. 8:28), whereas Mark and Luke reported only one. Keep in mind that Matthew was an eyewitness (Mark 3:18). If Mark and Luke knew there were two demoniacs, they may have simply focused on one of them. Some folks spotlight little discrepancies like these to prove the Bible can’t be trusted, but that seems quite foolish to me in light of the fact that 99% of what Matthew, Mark and Luke report harmonize perfectly. What real difference does it make if Jesus delivered one or two men that day?
Again we read of a demon who, animating himself through a man, bowed before Jesus, fearful of being tormented “before the time,” according to Matthew (Matt. 8:29). Demons have no hope of salvation, and apparently anticipate with terror the day when they will be cast into the lake of fire with Satan, whom Scripture tells us will be tormented there “day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). How tragic it is that humans, who, unlike demons, have an opportunity to find forgiveness, choose instead to waltz through life, never once bowing before the only One who can save them from the lake of fire.
The legion of demons in this man made him supernaturally strong—enough to break chains. No doubt everyone in his region was terrified of him. The demon in him, however, was terrified of Jesus, begging not to be tormented! In light of this, what a dishonor it is to Jesus when Christians are fearful of demons. It is like elephants being afraid of mice! The truth is, demons are terrified of Christ who lives in us!
We can only speculate how this man became so possessed. I think it is safe to say, however, that he was not simply walking along one day, perfectly in his right mind, when suddenly a demon jumped inside of him and instantly turned him into a raving lunatic. Rather, it seems much more likely that the man began to entertain demonic thoughts, and he slowly became obsessed. Gradually, as he continually yielded, his condition grew worse, until his downward spiral took him beyond obsession to oppression and then possession. Satan gains entrance through people’s thoughts, and thus he can be kept at bay by simply following Paul’s admonition to dwell upon whatever is true, honorable, right, pure and so on (Phil. 4:8).
Apparently, at least 2,000 demons dwelled in that man, as that is how many pigs rushed into the Sea of Galilee. What a sight that would have been to see—2,000 pigs suddenly going berserk and committing suicide! It may seem rather unkind of Jesus to allow those demons to enter the pigs—unkind not only to the pigs, but also to the owners of those pigs, who lost a lot of money that day. Why didn’t Jesus forbid the demons to enter the pigs, especially in light of the fact that once those pigs were possessed, they were soon dead?
Some have speculated that, because pigs were considered unclean under the old covenant and Jews were forbidden to eat pork, Jesus was sending a strong message in that regard to the pig’s owners and everyone else. Personally, I don’t know. I do know, however, that the Son of God, maker of all things, not only owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10), but all the pigs as well. He can do what He wants with them. I’ve noticed that the frequent natural disasters in the world, obviously permitted by God, regularly result in millions of dollars of losses. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away (Job 1:21). I do hope that stunning display of God’s power along the Sea of Galilee was enough to wake some sinners from their slumber! Better to lose your pigs and gain salvation than vice versa.
Although those demons had the sense to bow before Jesus, the people of the Gerasene region were not so wise, asking Jesus to leave them. He graciously complied, but left behind an evangelist with an amazing testimony.