Summary: Anticipating the Gentile mission of Acts, Luke shows how it was first initiated by Jesus, through the unlikely figure of the man who came at Jesus from the tombs.
A MISSIONARY TO THE GENTILES
The account of the man with the Legion of devils is a dramatic demonstration of the kind of spiritual warfare which is going on for the bodies, minds and souls of mankind.
We notice, first of all, that it is Jesus who initiated this particular confrontation. ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake,’ Jesus instructed His boatmen (Luke 8:22). The journey turned out to involve life-threatening hazards to all in the boat, but in the end ‘He commanded even the winds and the water, and they obeyed Him’ (Luke 8:25).
Jesus stepped ashore in the Gentile territory opposite Galilee (Luke 8:26). The first to meet Him was a sorry figure of a man, naked and demon-possessed, who had been living alone in the tombs (Luke 8:27). The man’s neighbours had tried keeping him chained up, but he would break the fetters and would be driven by the devil into the wilderness (Luke 8:29).
Jesus had already defeated the devil in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man (Luke 8:29). As on a previous occasion (Luke 4:34), the devils recognised Jesus, and sought to deter Him from His purpose (Luke 8:28).
It seems, sometimes, that defeated foes have the loudest voice (Luke 8:28). Jesus could see beyond the tormentors to the man, and asked his name (Luke 8:30). The many voices within the man answered on his behalf, “Legion” (a regiment of 6000 Roman soldiers, the term no doubt being used to represent their great number).
Jesus had previously proved Himself stronger than the devil (Luke 4:35), so now the devil gathered his minions – but even a multitude cannot stand against our Lord. The Legion of devils besought Jesus that He would not cast them into the abyss (Luke 8:31). They asked permission to enter the many swine feeding on the mountain (Luke 8:32).
Notice that Satan cannot do anything without the Lord’s permission (cf. Job 1:12; Job 2:6). The devil may be like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) - but he is lion on a chain (cf. 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Jesus gave them permission to enter the swine - no doubt knowing what the outcome would be (Luke 8:32-33).
In the Old Testament, swine are listed as unclean animals (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8). At Jesus’ command and permission, the devils left the man and entered the swine. In an ironic twist within the narrative, the whole herd ran headlong down a steep ravine into the lake, and were choked (Luke 8:33).
The swineherds gathered a posse against Jesus after the loss of their trade, and their fellow-countrymen found the patient whom they had known and feared “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind” (Luke 8:34-35). The swineherds also told how the demon-possessed had been “healed” (Luke 8:36). The man had been restored, the devils had been cast out, and his soul had been saved.
The good citizens asked Jesus to leave their borders, as many a supposedly good person has done since (Luke 8:37). The healed man, understandably, wanted to go with Jesus. However, on this occasion Jesus sent him back to his home, wherever that may have been (Luke 8:38-39).
There the right-minded man could bear a fruitful testimony to Jesus. Having been instructed to “show what great things GOD has done for you”, the man “published throughout the whole city what great things JESUS had done for him” (Luke 8:39). To share the one is to declare the other (2 Corinthians 5:19).