The Gadarene Demoniac
Read along below in the full transcript, as you listen to the audio…
By way of review let me give you what I consider to be the very key in understanding the miracles of the Lord Jesus. It can be summarized in these words; all the miracles of Christ are redemptive miracles. That is that they tell stories. They are object lesson pictures. Jesus does something physically in order to illustrate something spiritually. He does what He does to show what He can do. He does it on the level of earth to show us His heart’s intent what He longs to do spiritually. One is the shadow of the other. The physical by itself means very little. It’s only appreciated and really understood in terms of its spiritual counterpart. It would be tragic in every sense of the word to be experts on the physical miracles of Christ and then have no eye at all for spiritual things and be strangers to those great principles that lie beneath the physical miracles.
I read this statement by Bishop Richard Trench, “All the parables of Christ are miracles of teaching and all the miracles of Christ are parables of action.” I think that is good. All the miracles of Christ are parables of action. He did it in order to tell a story. The value of these miracles lies beyond themselves. If you just look at the miracle you miss it. You’ve got to look through the miracle and look at it and then through it in order to see God’s intention. If we only see a cleansed leper or if we only see a healed blind man or a restored paralytic or a quickened corpse, if that’s all we see, and we miss the thrill of the spiritual, then we are to be pitied because God has given this in order to illustrate spiritual things. Physical sight for a few years in this world is not the end of His mission and not why He came; to give us eyes for a little while. He came to give us spiritual eyes that we might see God, the things of God. He gave us the physical to illustrate the spiritual.
Once He acted it out in history, on the stage of history with the physical as His scenery, so that we might have forever eternal principles that apply in every age and in every generation. These principles are that which unveils His true heart for the spiritual man. The heart, like the physical body, also has its members. So, my heart has eyes and my heart has ears and my heart has a nose and my heart can taste and my heart has hands and my heart has teeth. That’s why we often read about the eyes of the heart, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” That’s not talking about the appendages on the side of your skull, but the inward ears of the heart. It matters very little, really, if my physical limbs don’t work and I’m crippled before God and I can’t walk before Him. That’s why we’re told to see God and hear His voice and taste of the Lord and see that He is good and catch the savor of His presence. They’re spiritual senses and they are illustrated through the physical senses. We need to be raised from the death of sin.
What is the spiritual meaning? The miracles have a story to tell. They are presenting the Lord Jesus as triumphant over every realm; over disease and over demons and over death and over nature and over human nature. He’s just triumphant everywhere. Matthew 8 & 9 you have the full view of everything God wants to accomplish spiritually in our lives. You study the miracles and then see the principles and you’ll know the miracles He wants to do in your heart, in your life. If God could begin to take us forward in these miracles, then you have the full answer to everything God wants to accomplish in your heart and in your life. They can be called miracles of the Christian life because that’s what they are.
So far we looked at the first four redemptive miracles. There was the redemptive miracles of the cleansing of the leper, chapter 8:1-4. There Christ was revealed as the willing healer of moral lepers. In this one sentence He declared His eternal attitude, “I will. Be cleansed.” That’s His attitude toward moral leprosy. Redemptive miracle #2 is the healing of the centurion’s servant, chapter 8:5-13. Here Christ is revealed as the king over disease and responder to faith. Last time we looked at redemptive miracles #3 & #4, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law of fever, verses 14&15 where Christ is revealed as the one who enables me to minister to Him. Redemptive miracle #4 is the stilling of the stormy sea, chapter 8:18-27. That’s what we were discussing when we left off last time. Christ is the one who solemnly controls all the storms of life, even when it appears that He is out of control, even when it looks like He is sleeping and detached and not involved in our life. The message is a great call to faith, and faith from God’s point of view; what it means to follow the Lord. Faith just lets Him sleep. Faith doesn’t have to see with the physical eyes an act of God. Faith know. Faith rests in the fact that God is in control. That’s what we’ve looked at so far.
That brings us to redemptive miracle #5, chapters 8:28-34, the casting out of the demons in the country of the Gadarenes. The miracle is recorded in the three synoptic gospels. In other words it’s in Matthew, Mark and Luke; Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20 and then Luke 8:26-39. That’s a total of forty one verses in the inspired scripture on this story. Something that the Spirit of God gives that much space to in the Bible, forty one inspired verses, must have great meaning and significance and we better really pay attention because God wants to communicate through this passage.
Matthew 8:28-34, “And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. Behold, they cried out saying, ‘What do we have to do with you, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ Now, there was at a distance from them a herd of many swine feeding. And the demons began to entreat Him saying, ‘If you are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And He said to them, ‘Be gone,’ and they came out and went into the swine and, behold, the whole herd,” Mark said there were two thousand, “rushed down into the steep banks into the sea and perished in the waters. And the herdsmen fled and went away into the city and reported everything including the incident of the demoniacs. Behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus and when they saw him they entreated Him to depart from their regions.”
In order to get the full message of God before our hearts, let me give you a simple outline of how I’d like to present it. First I’d like to say a couple of words about demon possession as a whole. Then I’d like to get the message of this particular redemptive miracle. Then, finally, the revelation of Christ that is given in this redemptive miracle. We’ll be weaving principles in all along the way that apply to life. Let me say a word about demon possession as a whole and as I start this, let me make you aware of this fact. I don’t know if you are aware of the variety of discussion and division on this particular topic in the body of Christ in the church. Very soon in our study of Matthew we are going to come to Matthew 12 and there you have the great miracle and discourse about the casting out of demons. There you have a fuller explanation of demon possession than you do here in chapter 8. Fact is, that’s the context of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin and all. All that was in the context that He cast out demons by the prince of demons and that kind of thing.
In chapter 12 the Spirit of God gives the full explanation of demon possession. I want to give the full explanation there when we come to that chapter. But we can’t look at this story without getting a few basics before our heart. I’m not going to give you the doctrine now of demon possession. We’ll pick that up in chapter 12. But I believe that you can call this the preparation for the doctrine of demon possession. Here is how I’d like to do it. I’d like to give you four simple principles that are right on the top which are sort of foundational, very cardinal, basic which at least get our eyes looking in the right direction and prepare us, hopefully, for a full discussion. You’ll see how simple these are as we go through them.
The first general truth can be stated in these words, speaking about the demons and the demon possessed man; they are real. That’s basic enough. You might say that of course they are real and why say that and it goes without saying. No, it doesn’t, not to many people. You would be amazed at how some people explain away demon possession in the New Testament. Let me give two examples from my commentaries. I don’t agree with these examples. I’m just using them and I’ll be quoting from them as illustration but it gives you an idea of how some people think about this. I’ll be paraphrasing as well as quoting.
The first explanation is something like this. What the New Testament calls “demon possession”, we who are brighter and more sophisticated and more educated call “mental disorder”. It’s just a mental problem; insanity and being crazy. If you study the Bible accounts of demon possession and then you compare them to a modern maniac you get many parallels, striking parallels. Then they go on to document all this by bringing you into the different rooms of the different hospitals in the land and they call attention to lunatics who rant and rave and who foam and who have extra human power when they are in one of their fits. One of my commentaries comes right out and says, “This is not demon possession. It’s epilepsy.” I like what Dr. Ironside said in answer to that, “That’s the first time I ever heard of epileptic pigs.” You can see how epilepsy wouldn’t really apply to the swine that they inhabited. That’s one way the destructive critics try to avoid the truth that they are real; that it’s just a mental disorder.
The second example is very similar to that. It overlaps quite a bit. “These New Testament people were sort of uneducated. They were illiterate and simple folks and like the folks back then they were full of superstitions. They had a lot of squirrely ideas. Jesus knew better because He was God and being God He knew all things. Jesus knew about the distant future and about the jet planes and about guided missiles and aircraft carriers and electricity and solar energy and about fission and fusion and chemistry and calculus but He never mentioned that. The reason is that they wouldn’t have known what He was talking about because those things weren’t in existence and in their culture. They didn’t have a vocabulary for those sophisticated things. God knew that the sun doesn’t really rise and set. The earth moves and makes it look like the sun is rising and setting but in the Psalms God doesn’t say, “And the earth moved.” It says, “And the sun rises and the sun sets.” See, that’s not really accurate scientifically but God used their language because he was dealing with them. He accommodated His greatness to their littleness, to their weakness, in order that He might communicate.”
Now, that sounds good until you apply it to something like this demon possession. They say, “Just so, with demon possession. Jesus knew there was no such thing but those people were superstitious. They didn’t know at that time about the disorders of the mind or about all of the manias and phobias that we discovered in our brighter age. If Jesus had gone up to those disciples and said, ‘That man is a schizophrenic,’ they would have said, ‘Say what?’ They don’t know what that is. They say He used their language and lowered Himself and said it was demon possession but He knew it wasn’t really demon possession. He just used their vocabulary, so that He might deal with them where they were at the time. What He really meant was they were crazy and insane and lunatics. That’s dangerous reasoning because if you think about it Jesus would never countenance superstition in the interest of truth. He’d never do that. He wouldn’t use the language of a lie in order to communicate the truth.
Back to the principle, the first thing right on the surface, whatever other approach you take, you’ve got to start with this, they are real and they are literal. These demons are actual and they are rulers from the pit of hell and you’ve got to see that if you are going to understand the teaching on it. Jesus is not just adopting the language of their day. Take that as a fact now. We could prove it and there are many different ways to prove it from the scripture and we’ll get into that in more detail in chapter 12; the fact that they spoke and communicated and were different entities from the individual and so on. But just now recognize that they are real. They are actual and literal and they could possess some of the bodies of men and women created in the image of God. It’s an amazing truth that they are real.
We’ll not entertain the question at this time, how those poor souls got into that mess. What did they do in order to have these demons come in and possess them? Did they willingly invite the demons into their lives and hearts? Did they sell out to Satan? Is it like some of things we read about today, especially on the West Coast where people actually worship Satan and have synagogues to Satan? For now just recognize this, that they were real and they really inhabited men and women and they were really cast out by the word of the Lord. It’s frightening on the level of earth to think of the fact that it’s real, to think of some alien power, some spirit being coming into a life to shatter it and lord over it and control it, and yet you read the simple record and for those who come with childlike dependence, you’ve got to say it’s true and real. You don’t read in between the lines and twist it to mean something else. It’s what it says it is. These demons possess these people and bring misery and discord into their lives and hearts and they were helpless to dethrone that spirit enemy.
That’s the first observation. The second general fact, not only are they real, (there’s a little comfort in this next fact), but their power is limited. Now that truth is just filled with comfort to know that Satan and all his demons can’t move without the permission of Christ. You are familiar with the Old Testament illustration of this truth in the book of Job where you have the same truth again. Satan had to get permission before he could lift one finger against Job. When you read a verse like 31, “And the demons began to entreat him saying, ‘If you are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine,’” you are full of hope and comfort because I don’t need to fear Satan or demons because they can’t do a thing without the express permission of God. Fact is that they can’t even possess a pig unless they are given divine approval and permission.
We read that Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. That scares you until you get the other side of the truth. He’s a roaring lion on a chain. That’s the full truth. He can’t go beyond God’s permission and can’t do a thing. I heard an illustration one time and I don’t know how I’d respond to this. Someone gave an illustration of a wild rabid Doberman on a bridge tied with a chain that could not be snapped and there was just enough room for you to walk by without him reaching you and all he could do was foam and bark and launch at you but he couldn’t reach you because of the chain. Could you walk by without fear? I don’t know if I could. Great day! Even if I knew that chain was strong, I get scared just looking out my window at a Doberman. I can’t imagine walking by one with only inches in between. And yet, that’s what Satan is. He can bark and he can foam and he can scare the daylights out of us but he can’t touch us. We’re safe and sound, safer than a baby in their mother’s arms because of our relationship with Jesus. It’s comforting beyond description to know that Satan has got to get permission before he can do anything or allow anything.
Satan has no compulsory power over men. He can suggest and he can stimulate and he can provide occasion and he can discourage and tempt and he loves to harass the children of God but Satan has no compulsory power. He can’t force you. Eve would have been guiltless if Satan were sitting on her jamming the fruit down her throat but he didn’t jam the fruit down her throat. He tempted her and she ate the fruit willingly. If you resist the devil, all he can do is one thing. He has no power of you beyond God’s control. That’s the second fact. They are limited. They are real but they have to get permission to move against the children of God.
The third fact is this. Once again I have to keep coming back to this and we’ll develop in more in chapter 12 because that’s where the doctrine is, but I’ll just state it now. It’s real, they are limited and I can’t say this enough and you’ll hear it every time you come into my studio because God has written His Bible this way, it’s a picture. That doesn’t mean it’s not real and that it’s not literal. It is literal and it’s actual. There are real demons possessing a real body but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a picture and that it illustrates a spiritual truth. You couldn’t get a more ultimate picture of tragedy and hopelessness than a man or woman created in the image of God being possessed by a lord of hell. That’s the ultimate. That is the extreme. That’s the picture in aggravated form. You couldn’t get a more critical situation. The bottom line of all sin and all misery is always Satan. I’m not saying that, “Satan made me do it.” That isn’t the point. The point is if you trace it back you are going to end up with God or Satan, one or the other. On the other side of evil and sin and hell and all kinds of violence, you’ve got Satan. When you trace him back far enough to his root, you’ve got Satan. Even beyond the old sin nature, you’ve got Satan. That’s why you read a verse like Acts 5:3, “Why does Satan fill your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” You just trace that lie all the way back and you’ll see that Satan was behind that lie. If you trace it all the way forward, it’s against God. All lying is against God and it’s all coming from the pit of hell. So, you have that Satan is at the bottom line.
When you see the details of the story and you try to picture the principles behind it, you’ll see what a picture this is and what a desperate case is laid out before us in the story of this demoniac. Listen as I read some of the facts. The first fact was that he was possessed. Mark 5:8 calls him “an unclean spirit”. Mark 5:9 says, “My name is ‘Legion’, for we are many.” A legion in a Roman army was a division embracing six thousand men. This demon or this leader of the demons in this man said, “My name is legion.” I don’t know if he meant that literally, there are six thousand of us. We read about Mary and there were seven and that might even be the perfect number. If it’s literal, I don’t know but it’s a horrible situation. Try to get that before your mind’s eye. Demon possessed by the unholy and unclean spirit whose name was Legion.
The second fact is where he lived. He lived among the tombs. Matthew 8:28, they were coming out of the tombs. Mark 5:3, he had his dwelling among the tombs. Luke 8:27, he was not living in a house but in the tombs; in the place of death and corruption and the place of ceremonial uncleanliness from the Old Testament. Take those two facts and add to it this third. He’s in awful torment. Matthew 8:28, “They were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by the road.” Mark 5:4, “He had often been bound with shackles and chains and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles were broken in pieces.” Mark 5:5, “And continually night and day among the tombs and in the mountains he was crying out and gashing himself with stones.” Do you see what a picture this is? How he was demon possessed. You couldn’t get worse than that. Demon possessed; living in the place of death and in horrible bondage, awful pain and torment, being thrown around by these wicked spirits. Add to that, Luke 8:27, “He had not put on any clothing for a long time.” He was stark naked and didn’t have on one strip of clothing. The shame!
I don’t think God gives us all these details without having in His mind’s eye the eternal principles. Can you think of anything worse than being demon possessed and living in the place of death and in constant torment all the time, a life that is shattered and full of discord, lived out in shame, separated from God and from men? I say that tells a story. There’s a picture, a spiritual story. That’s one side of the picture, the demon possessed man.
There’s another object lesson pictured in the story. It’s pigs or swine or pork or hogs. Someone told me this was the first record of deviled ham in the Bible. We miss some of the repulsiveness that registered in the Jewish mind when we say “pigs” When we say pigs or swine, we don’t register the same kind of repulsive attitude that would have meant to the New Testament Jew. There is a good chance that these swine keepers in this chapter were Jews. If they were Jews they had no business whatsoever keeping these swine, especially as their livelihood. Having a herd of pigs, especially if it were a Jew, is the same thing as being demon possessed is. It’s an object lesson in the extreme. It’s an illustration of the worse kind of occupation for a Jew; to be a herder of swine. It’s an example of worldliness to the nth degree; pigs. That word even comes across in our English language. Usually when you think about worldliness you don’t think about pigs. You think about gold or silver or position or material things, some kind of wealth or mansions or good clothing. Being rich and being feed sumptuously every day is a good picture of worldliness. But God uses the word “pigs” on purpose, not only because it was fact, but because He isolated out of a history of thousands of facts. He wanted to write a Bible.
What he was saying was this. If I were to say to you that he chose his job over the Lord. You would probably say that he shouldn’t do that and that it was terrible. He chose a high paying position over the Lord. He chose gold over Jesus and chose silver. Well, you might say you understand that, that you were tempted to do that yourself. There are occasions where the temptation of worldliness comes in to choose gold over Jesus or oil or occupation over Jesus. But how does it strike you when I say that he had a choice and he chose pigs over Jesus? That’s the context and that’s the whole idea of this chapter. Because they lost their pigs, they entreat Him to depart out of their coast. They had a choice; Jesus or pigs. They chose pigs. This is God’s illustration, I believe, the extreme of worldliness.
When the parable son went out in his worldly ways, where did he end up? He ended up with pigs. That’s God’s illustration of worldliness. If you stand back just a few paces and look at the story, it’s a picture. What a picture of conversion when this guy gets saved! He was demon possessed and living among the tombs, naked and full of shame and in awful agony and torment and helpless before the one who was usurping the throne of the Spirit. What a salvation. If you can reach that guy in the extreme, then there is hope for every lesser case because the lesser are included in the greater. So, God chooses the aggravated case, the worse possible case, the most critical situation and then chose to deliver him in order that everybody in every age with a lesser problem might know there is deliverance available for them. If He could do that for him, then He can do it for anyone anywhere in any time and any condition, no matter how ugly and repulsive his present or past. So, it’s full of hope. Just so the other side is the visual aid of worldliness illustrated by the pigs.
Let’s get back to the outline. #1 They are real. #2 They are limited #3 they tell a story. They provide a picture, an object lesson. Here’s the final observation and then we’ll get into the story itself. Whatever conclusions you draw as you come to study the doctrine of demon possession, whatever else you see when you study Satan and the fall and demons and spirits and evil spirits and all of that, you are going to end up with this; Jesus is triumphant over all of them. You are going to end up with that. You might as well start off with that. That’s why the Holy Spirit records this story. God did not tell us about demons in the Bible in order that we might know about demons. He has no interest whatsoever in teaching us about demons, that we might know about demons. Everything the Bible says about demons is designed to turn our eyes to Christ and show us the Lord. The fact is, everything the Bible says about everything is designed to turn us unto to Him. That’s why the Holy Spirit records this story.
Jesus is stronger than the strong man. He’s able to bind him up and then go in a spoil his goods. I think very often God’s people have made a terrible mistake. They look more at possession than they do at deliverance. They get all wrapped up in demon possession. Why did He tell us about demon possession? It’s in order that we might know that he can be delivered and he can be released and he can be set free. This was written to introduce us to the One who can deliver us from the power of Satan. We need to turn our eyes to Him. Alright, here’s review; they are real, they are limited, they tell a story and they point to Christ. Having said that, we’ll pick up the rest of that discussion when we come to chapter 12. That brings us to the story itself; redemptive miracle #5.
Let me give a few comments to set the story in its real setting. I told you in another occasion that not only all the books of the Bible but all the stories of the Bible are providentially arranged by God. That is, they are in order; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. It’s because they tell a story in that order. You can’t take them out of order. It wouldn’t help you to study Mark before Matthew or to study John after Romans. They are in God’s order. I think we can get a little light by comparing this miracle with the miracle that was right before it. In redemptive miracle #4 the Lord Jesus stilled the stormy sea. He showed Himself as Lord and Master and authority over the outer world. He pacified the tumults and the raging storm of nature and all of the discord that was illustrated in that storm. He calmed the storm.
In this miracle you have a different kind of storm. In some sense it’s even wilder than the storm that was raging on the sea and rocking that little fishing boat. This was disharmony in a man’s life, a life that was created for the inhabitants of God in the image of God. This is a raging storm of a different kind. This is a spiritual storm. This is on the inside. In both cases, in the storm of nature and in this storm of human nature, Jesus stilled the storm. When it’s over there’s a great calm. The first miracle, I think, prepares you for the second.
When you come to a story like this don’t listen to the critics who are always trying to tear the Bible in shreds and cut it in little pieces, always pointing out what are seeming contradictions in order to throw aside the uninstructed child of God. Some are upset by the fact that Mark says that there was one demon possessed man and Luke said there was one demon possessed man but when you come to the study of Matthew it says that there were two demon possessed men. “Aha, see; contradiction!” they say. Well, that’s nonsense. Matthew’s account of two does not rule out one because one is included in two. The fact that the others say there were one doesn’t rule out two. It’s just the same story but in the emphasis of Mark and Luke it was more important to stress the details that they stressed and that’s all. There were two. So, don’t get thrown by that.
One other thing. I read one commentator (I could hardly believe this. Sometimes it makes me laugh at what comes out of some people) who said, “Here’s an illustration of the fact that Jesus stole and that He was a crook. He had no right to destroy that man’s business. He stole his pigs and he had no right to take those pigs.” Right off the bat you can see that he has a little view of Christ for two reasons. #1 If He did destroy the pigs, which he didn’t, but if He did, He had every right to destroy the pigs because He owned them. As Creator they belong to Him. You can’t steal what belongs to you. That’s simple enough. Because everything belongs to Him, even if He had decided all of a sudden to go in there with a baseball bat or kick them off the cliff or however, He would have a right to do that because they were His. Those swine herders who were taking care of them, at best were stewards of something that didn’t belong to them. It’s sort of like the donkey on Palm Sunday. They say, “That didn’t belong to Jesus.” Well, He’s creator God and He owned the donkey and there came a time in His redemptive history when He said to His disciple, “Just go say to the owners, ‘The Lord has need of him.’ That’s all. I’m the Lord of that donkey and it’s time now that I need it. It’s mine.” That’s not stealing. So, that shows a low view of Christ.
Even more to the point is this, that Jesus didn’t destroy those swine. We said in our introduction that the demons were limited. Jesus allowed the demons to go into the swine. The only thing Jesus did was cast it out of the men. He didn’t cast them into the swine. You can’t credit Him with that. He allowed it but the demons were the cause of that. God is not the author of sin. Just because He permits something doesn’t mean that He’s morally responsible. He permitted Hitler but He’s not the author of the Holocaust. He allowed that and He allowed those demons to go into the swine but that doesn’t make Him the author of sin.
Let’s say, by way of example, for some purpose in the mind of God, say for purifying the Jews or to take away a dishonoring business or something like that, that He did initiate and control the destruction of the swine. There’s a wonderful principle involved in that. It can be stated in these words, “Sometimes God’s taking is really a giving in disguise.” You’ll see how that applies in life. Don’t despise it when the Lord allows something or someone to disappear from your life. It might turn into a very great blessing. That loss might turn out to be a great gain. They counted it as a loss, but He could have had great purposes there. There could have been great gain. The taking in reality might be a higher giving. I’ll leave that for the Holy Spirit to develop and apply in our lives.
Let’s come a little closer to the story and pick up the spiritual lesson that the Spirit of God intended by it. I believe if we look at the facts as the Lord puts them in contrast in this story, especially as you compare it with Mark and Luke’s account, I believe the spiritual message becomes very clear. On one side, as we described already, you have demons and you have death and you have torment and you have shame and you have graphic descriptions of man at his critical worse. You couldn’t get worse than this. Hell rules in his life and it couldn’t be worse; having six thousand demons controlling your life and casting you down and being naked and ashamed and living in a place of death and corruption in the tombs with the corpse; a horrible picture!. Then the scene changes. After Jesus comes on the scene we have words like this, “He was found seated, clothed and in his right mind and he had a desire to be with Jesus.” In one of the accounts he uses the word “begged”; he begged Jesus that he might go with Him. He became a sign and a testimony in his own community. Jesus said, “Go back and tell your family what great things the Lord has done for you.”
Now those are only the facts. Anybody with a spiritual eye can see through those facts; demon possessed and living in the place of death and living a life of hell and torment and shame and then all of a sudden you are seated, clothed and in your right mind, fellowshipping with Jesus and becoming a shining testimony. You don’t have to force it and you don’t have to twist it and you don’t have to bend it and you don’t have to look in between the lines to see the great message. The New Testament, all through the rest of Romans and so on, unfolds the theology of what it means to be seated, clothed and in your right mind. That’s the whole book of Romans; what it means to be seated and clothed and in your right mind. You have it in picture form here. The Old Testament is in seed and the gospels it’s the bud and in the epistles you have it in fully developed form and you have the full explanation of it.
I believe the message is the grand redemptive miracle of conversion. I think that’s what he is taking about; what happens when somebody gets saved. He just gives you the extreme example and oh what a tremendous change takes place. It’s an illustration and God’s picture of conversion. He takes the worse possible case and brings it to them to the highest possible level in a moment of time. As soon as Jesus comes in there is order and there is harmony and there is peace and there is reason and tranquility and deliverance.
Let’s ask the question and try to answer it, “What is the great revelation of Christ in this wonderful miracle?” Without trying to be fancy, using a word that grips your heart, but it’s the idea of this, He’s the Redeemer and the Deliverer. He’s the One who brings release and He is the One who sets you free from Satan and death and bondage and shame and hell and every evil and man with his discord and disharmony and confusion of life. He’s the Deliverer. This is a redemptive miracle and the story it tells is the freedom that Jesus brings. That’s what it’s all about. It’s the story of salvation in story form.
Just so we don’t get too dry and detached and just factual, let me share the rest of this in terms of the principles, in order that we might make practical application to our own lives. The first principle is illustrated in verse 29, by the word spoken by Legion, “Have you come to torment us before the time?” For years I regarded that as a rhetorical question, a question not intended to illicit an answer. When you come to rhetorical questions in the New Testament, I suggest that you answer them because there is a blessing in them. How would you answer that? “Have you come to torment us before the time?” The answer is, “Yes.” The answer is an unqualified “yes”.
Let me state it as a principle. Every victory in your life is a present foretaste of final victory. Every time I have a victory in my life, Satan is tormented before the time. Each victory is the bud of coming glory. Satan is cruel. He loves to torment. Every time he appears in scripture he is hurting somebody. Every time he show up he is tormenting and injuring. One describes in Matthew that he was grievously vexed by the devil. It’s cruel. Another says, “He takes him and tears him and foams and gnashes with his teeth and pines away. He’s cruel. Often times they cast him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. He’s cruel. And the spirit rent him sore and came out of him. All that time Satan and the demons were trying to hurt. He promises the world and gold but he only brings hell and he only brings torment. Even when he’s cast out, you’ll notice that his last act before he departs is to take his victim and cast him down into the ground. He just throws him down.
Satan loves to torment and when he’s not tormenting he’s tormented before the time. If you don’t let him torment you, you are tormenting him because he lives to torment. That was what was grieving him so, because Jesus was going to take away his tormenting power and he didn’t want that. That’s what I mean when I say that your victory is his pain. Every time you trust Jesus for victory, you are tormenting Satan before the time. There is going to be a day for all of us, Hallelujah!, when we have all victory and he has all pain. That’s down the road. Right now, if you are anything like me, there is a lot of land to be possessed and you have a long way to go. We are all toddlers in this Christian life. Every forward step you take is a foretaste of a coming glory. That’s what God wants to work in our hearts. Our lives should be a continual blow on the head of the serpent. Day by day as we live in union with Christ in victory we’re tormenting him before the time.
The second principle is illustrated in Matthew 8:31&32 along with 33&34, take them both together but not as a united whole. “And the demons began to entreat Him saying, ‘If you are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And He said to them, ‘Be gone.’ And they came out and went into the swine and behold, a whole herd rushed down the steep banks into the sea and perished in the waters.” Now hold that as one fact. Now look at the second fact. “When the herdmen fled and went into the city and reported everything including the incident of the demoniacs, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. When they saw Him they entreated Him to depart from their region.”
Remember earlier that we reported that the swine became an object lesson in the extreme for love for the world? It’s shocking to read verse 34, “And they entreated Him to depart from their coasts/region.” It was their choice that it cost too much to have Jesus. They chose the pigs. They’d rather have the pigs. They rejected Christ, so they lost Him. They chose the pigs but did they get the pigs? See verse 32, “The whole herd perished in the sea.” Do you see where we are heading? The principle can be stated in these words; when you choose pigs over Jesus you lose both the pigs and Jesus. We’ve got to bring that down to life. It’s easy to say that, “That doesn’t apply to me. I don’t have any pigs. I’m not a swine herder. I don’t trade in pigs.” But just like this with the absolute illustration under which every lesser illustration could be applied, so the pigs are the extreme illustration under which every lesser illustration could be applied.
Let me tell you exactly what I’m saying. Let’s change the word “pigs”. Let’s change it to anything. When you go after anything except Jesus you lose what you’ve gone after, as well as Jesus will depart from your coasts. I’ll tell you, it’s startling truth. Why did the prodigal leave the father’s house? He was looking for a ring and a robe and a fatted calf. He was looking for friends and a party. That’s why he left. What did he find when he went after those things? Pigs. Where were those things in reality? In the father’s house. He came back in order to get the things he went after because in going after them he lost them. There’s a million and one applications to this. There’s a thousand different ways we embrace the disease and ask the physician to depart from our coasts.
Let me give a list and I pray the Holy Spirit will apply it. You young people here and those listening by tape, if you go after a life partner, you’ll lose it. Marriage is not a goal. Jesus is a goal. No man has the wife that he gets on his own. You only have the wife that God gives you. If you don’t have the wife that God gives you, even though you have a wife, you don’t have the wife. Is that a riddle? If you get it on your own you really don’t have it and the tragedy is that when you go after that on your own, the spiritual Jesus often departs from your coast. No woman has the husband that she gets on her own. You only have the husband that God gives you. If God doesn’t give you a husband, the husband you have is not really yours. Often Jesus will depart from your coasts.
Let me illustrate it again. Don’t make vocation a goal. This is especially dangerous in our materialistic society. We’re so pllush and fat and so rich. We go after things and want things to play with and things to entertain us and we want things to make life easier and we want things to make life more comfortable and we want things we can enjoy and we want things to satisfy us. I tell you, with a spirit that has already been badly burned by materialism, if the cost of those things is to have Jesus depart from your coast, then you are going to end up having those things but not having them. You’ll possess them but they’ll possess you. There will be no joy in them and there will be no contentment in them and in your riches you’ll be poverty stricken and empty and dry and it’s vain and it’s empty and it’s nothing/zero. To have everything without His smile, without His presence, without His embrace, without His Spirit singing new revelations of Christ into our delighted souls, what do we have? We are losers all the way around. Those things mean nothing. Sad, sad is the Christian in his new car, is the Christian in his fancy clothes and in his fine home and in his important job, if there is a cloud that blots out the sunshine in the Lord. We only have what Jesus gives. You’ll never have what you get on your own. If you ever choose pigs over Jesus, you’ll lose Jesus and the pigs.
Let me illustrate it again and bring it closer to home. Thousands of Christians go after Christian service as a goal. They create their own opportunities; souls, souls, souls, missions, missions, missions, evangelism, evangelism, evangelism! Because that’s their goal and that’s their passion and that’s their direction and that’s their heart and their burden, they go after that as a goal rather than after Him as a goal. When you go after that as a goal, you’ll lose both it and Him. If you ever make a goal out of a by-product you lose both the goal and the by-product together. Some are able to maneuver and some are more clever and they can manipulate and pull the right strings and meet the right people and create the right opportunities and get the right endorsements and end up on a public platform someplace and smile and say, “Now I am in ministry. I did it! I pulled the right strings and I got the right people and the right people backed me and we got the funds in and now here am I. I’ve got this opportunity.” Have you really? You don’t have it. You may have it but you don’t have it! You lost the opportunity by going after it. You lost it because you got it on your own.
What good is public ministry if Jesus has departed from your coast? Think of that. What good is sharing if the anointing of God is not on that sharing? What good is ministry if the Lord is not there to bless and to quicken and to make alive? It’s not good at all. None of us are free from the violations of this principle of the pigs and Jesus. From my own heart I’ve often chosen pigs over Jesus. And by choice necessarily chosen pigs is a request to the Lord to depart for a while, from our coasts.
Let me illustrate it again. Every time any Christian goes after anything other than Jesus, he loses both the thing he goes after and the Lord Himself. May I share with you the best way to lose friends? Try to make friends. That’s the best way to lose them. You don’t make friends by trying to make friends. You make yourself repulsive and awkward. You go after Jesus and you’ll be beating friends off with a broom handle. He’ll give you those things as a by-product. Closer to home, I speak as a husband and a father of six children. Do you want to know how I can lose my family? It’s by trying to salvage my family. The best thing I can do for my family is to delight myself in the Lord, so He can give me the desires of my heart. He hasn’t called me to make men of God out of my boys and women of God out of my girls. He has called their mother and me to be a man and woman of God in their presence, before their eyes. If we go after Christ, we save the family. If we go after the family, very often we get frustrated and we fret and get anxious and the Lord is driven off of our coasts and the family goes headlong over the bank and into the drink and down.
Do you want to know the best way to lose your future? Try to secure it. Go after it. Plan for your future and set it all up and make sure every base is covered. You lost it! You want to know how to really secure your future? Forget it and go after Jesus because when you go after Jesus all those things will be added unto you. Don’t go after gifts. Go after Jesus. Don’t go after the fruit of the Spirit. Go after Jesus. Don’t go after Christian fellowship. Go after Jesus. Don’t go after education, even Bible education, not as a substitute for Him. The goal is never that I must win my unsaved husband or I must win my unsaved wife or I must win my unsaved parents or I must win my unsaved children. No. You must know Jesus and you must walk in an unclouded union with Him. You must go after Him and pursue Him because any time you go after anything other than Jesus you lose both; you lose Him and that which you go after. The safest thing, brothers and sisters, that you can ever do in life is just to go after Him with every fiber of your being. I suggest that’s a principle. All those other things might be nice but they are not the goal. The goal is Him. The goal is not to win your community or to build a church or anything else. It’s to know Him. Let’s not lose everything else by going after it.
Let me give one more principle and then we’ll close. Not only is every victory in your life a present foretaste of a future victory and not only do we lose all by not choosing Him, but let me illustrate in from verse 34, Jesus never forces Himself upon anyone. In verse 34 they ask Him to depart and He says, “Goodbye.” I love it. We wouldn’t do it that way. We’d say, “Let me talk to you about this and let me try to explain it. I don’t want you just walking off. Let’s see if we can…” He never tried to force Himself. They said “depart” and He said “okay, see you later”.
I get a blessing out of comparing verse 34 to Luke 5:8 because Peter said to the Lord, “Depart from me. I’m a sinful man, oh Lord.” You’ve got two things. You’ve got the Gadarenes saying, “Depart,” and Peter saying, “Depart.” He didn’t depart from Peter, even though they used the very same words, “Depart from me.” Why didn’t He depart from Peter? It’s because Peter never prayed to depart. Oh sure, he said it with his lips but God doesn’t hear the lips, anyway. Those are just words. God always listens to the heart and sometimes He bypasses the prayer of the lips in order that He might answer the prayer of the heart and answer the prayer of a lifetime. So, He passes by the prayer of the moment. Don’t get discouraged if God bypasses your superficial prayers because He’s going after your heart. Peter didn’t mean what the Gadarenes meant. When the Gadarenes said to depart they meant depart and so He departed. When Peter said, “Depart from me. I’m a sinful man, oh Lord,” what he really meant was, “Draw close and hug me tight and don’t ever leave me.” That’s the prayer that Jesus answered.
It thrills me to death that God can hear beyond my silly words. Sometimes you get discouraged, “I don’t know how to pray. I’m afraid God will hear something I don’t really mean and then I’ll get all messed up.” God never hears what you really don’t mean. He only hears your heart and He only answers your heart and He does it after His own pleasure. The moanings and the groanings and the sighs and the looks and the ache is what He hears and that’s what He answers. And that’s real prayer. An awful lot of what man calls prayer, God doesn’t call prayer at all. The point is that He doesn’t force Himself upon you. He never forces Himself upon anyone.
Once again, when we come to chapter 12 we’ll see the details of this but if you look carefully at the gospel record of demon possessed men, in every case these men were crying out for mercy. I used to have the idea that the worse sinner was the most possessed; the more guilty you are, the more Satan had control. But when you look in the Bible you don’t see this. “If this is guy a real dirty sinner, then he’s got more demons in him. If this guy is really bad, then he’s loaded with them and if you are the most guilty sinner of all, then you are possessed by the most demons.” But you don’t read about the false teachers and false prophets being demon possessed. You see, they were working hand in hand with Satan. They weren’t fighting to be free. These demon possessed men, by the time they came up in the Bible record, were all fighting to be free and crying out for deliverance and crying out for mercy. The men in this chapter were not acquiescing to this slavery that they were under. They were crying out for deliverance.
Here’s the point. Jesus never forces Himself on anyone. If you say “depart”, He’ll depart. If you choose something else, He’ll leave. But if you get the worse case possible, six thousand demons in a man living among the tombs, tormented day and night and cutting themselves and naked and full of shame, you get the worse case possible, and wanting to be delivered, and Jesus is right there and he’s clothed and in his right mind and he’s sitting in fellowship with Jesus. It’s a marvelous story of redemption. Even when He departs He departs in mercy. He doesn’t leave Himself without a witness, just in case they change their mind, He leaves a glowing monument of grace; a testimony in that city in the person of that redeemed and converted person. Redemptive miracle #5.
Our Father, we do thank You for Your word and for the great principles that You’ve etched in the histories of these men. Lord, You’ve fossilized Your principles that we, two thousand years later might study these things and learn of You. Instruct us and teach us in the way we should go and draw us and we’ll run after You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.