One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is that moment when Jesus meets the men who are possessed and tormented by demons (Matthew 8, Mark 5, Luke 8). This is an absolutely, incredible encounter. I love that the character of Jesus is sewn all throughout scripture, and this encounter is certainly no different!
In this story, we see two men possessed by demons who have completely paralyzed a town with fear. The townspeople are so afraid that they will not go near them because in the past, when they did, the men broke the chains placed on their hands and feet and were unable to be subdued. Day and night, they cried out and cut themselves in the tombs. They were truly outcasts as the townspeople took every precaution to stay away from them.
As the story goes, when Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, He came to their region, the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, the demon possessed men ran to Him and fell to their knees. They knew Jesus even from a distance! The demons within the tormented men began to cry out and beg Jesus to flee from them. They even asked Jesus to allow them to enter a herd of pigs nearby, to which He permitted them. As the demons (thousands of them) entered the pigs, they ran down a steep bank and drowned in the lake.
The two men were completely restored. In fact, Mark says, “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.”
The witnesses and townspeople were afraid at what they had seen and at which they were now looking. Perhaps they were afraid because they did not understand Jesus, nor did they know who He was; they were ignorant. Or maybe their fear stemmed from their own selfishness. No matter the source of their fear, they asked Him to leave town… and that is exactly what Jesus did.
The healed men, however, had a new desire. They wanted to be with Jesus. And why wouldn’t they? This God-Man had just completely healed them of their greatest affliction–an affliction over which they had no control. This affliction had left them completely hopeless but now, they sat completely healed, completely restored, at the feet of the Man who had forever changed their lives. Their primary desire, from that point forward, was to walk with Jesus–literally.
But Jesus had different plans for them as His response to them was not what they expected, nor do I believe it was the response they wanted. Jesus said to them, “Go home to your family/friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And even though this is not what the men asked for, they followed Jesus in obedience.
As I read and meditate on this scripture, the Holy Spirit makes me aware of two things:
1) Jesus is the essence of power and authority
I love how these two demon-possessed men who terrified an entire town are now on their knees before Jesus. The demons that once laid hold of their souls had known Jesus from a distance. As soon as they recognized Him, they barreled towards Him… and Jesus didn’t flinch. He stood in front of these two men. He did not retreat… He stood there! And now, they were on their knees before Him begging Him for mercy! And then, the demons went into the herd of pigs ONLY when Jesus allowed them to. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” These demons knew they were face to face with the God of Old! The One described in Colossians as the “Firstborn over all creation… the Creator of ALL things, visible and invisible.” The One Whom Hebrews says, “sustains all things by His powerful Word.” This is the Man before whom they were kneeling.
There truly is none above Him or beside Him!
2) Jesus fully embodies love and compassion
Jesus loved these two men. Jesus took time with these two men. Jesus healed these two men completely. And at the end of the day, when these men wanted to remain with Him, He said go, and tell others what I have done, because He wanted them to experience His love as well.
These two men experienced Jesus unlike most will ever experience Him. They saw first hand, in a very real way, His absolute power and authority paired with his perfect love and compassion. And it changed them forever!
But I believe that we still see this and experience this today as well. We see it over the law of sin and death. It is because of His power and authority coupled with His love and compassion that we even have an opportunity to experience complete, soul-saving forgiveness of sin. We also see His absolute power and authority over every circumstance and issue life deals us. And we can also see His perfect love and compassion in those same circumstances!
Looking back at this truly remarkable encounter gives us a glimpse at the hope that only Jesus can bring. Only Jesus is powerful enough. Only Jesus has all authority. Only Jesus is perfect love. Only Jesus is God!
What then is the Holy Spirit speaking as I encounter Jesus in this narrative? How will I respond?
- Because Jesus is all powerful and has complete authority, I know that nothing happens without God’s approval or permission.
- Because Jesus is all powerful, I can know that Jesus has control and authority over my life and the circumstances in it. He is more powerful than my “issues.”
- Because Jesus is compassionate and loving, I can know (and find hope in) He has greater purposes than simply the pain and difficulty of my present circumstances.
- Because Jesus is all powerful, loving and compassionate, I know that He is so much bigger than ANYTHING else I, or anyone, will ever face. Including the penalty of my sin (1 John 1:9).
- Because Jesus has complete authority, is all powerful, loving and compassionate, I can trust Him alone with every aspect of my life.
- Because Jesus is all these things, HE is my PRIZE!