Parallel Texts: Matthew 8:28-33; Luke 8:26-39
Right after Jesus completed His teaching in parables, He and His disciples began to make their way across the Sea of Galilee, where they encountered a fierce storm that threatened to swamp their boat; Jesus calmed that storm. Their journey comes to its destination on the far shore, and immediately Jesus encounters a storm of a different sort, much more fierce and dangerous, for He encounters a storm of the soul in the form of a man tortured by unclean spirits. More often than not, this text is taught by getting into the details, how many soldiers in a legion, the man was naked, chains couldn’t bind him, he cut himself, how many pigs were there, everyone was afraid, the guy lived in the tombs…
I’d like to focus on the big picture instead.
If you haven’t read the passage, I’d suggest that you do so now; take your time and get the whole picture in your mind…
To really get the full impact of what is going on, you need to remember that Jesus just calmed the storm, and to keep in mind that in prophetic passages, the sea is often used to represent this world; always churning, tossing and tempestuous. The winds came, the waves tossed and Jesus spoke the Word and brought peace. Not only can He intervene in Nature with authority, He will bring calm to this world in due course. Then, after calming the storm, He arrives at the shore in a region inhabited primarily by gentiles, and a crazed and demon possessed man comes running.
Mark goes into great detail showing us just how far gone this fellow was, and how he was uncontrollable. He is dirty, naked and crazy. He lives near the unclean pigs and in the unclean tombs, oh yes, he pushes all of the Jewish buttons for “unclean” and is inhabited by unclean spirits!
You could almost say that this man represents the reasons for the tempest-tossed and always churning seas… as though this was representative of the spiritual causes of the condition of this world. Into all of this comes Jesus and His Kingdom Tour; we might expect a clash, right? A war, Armageddon, thunder, lightning, fireworks, armies of angels… all that apocalyptic stuff. And what to our wondering eyes should appear?
Surrender of all forces hostile to the Kingdom in Jesus’ presence.
Dear reader, we should reflect on this!
It turns out that the man was inhabited by many demons. How many, whether dozens, hundreds or thousands, I don’t know, the text says “many” and all of the numbers in the commentaries are speculative, but they were all surrendering to Christ, and they were driven into a herd of pigs and drowned. Of all creatures, pigs! Of course the people in town were afraid, that seems a rational thing to me, for who could grasp the full picture of what was going on at that point? Isn’t it interesting that Jesus told the man, now restored, to go home and give his testimony? Yes, that is another interesting piece to the puzzle.
When this story is viewed in its context, there is so much more than we usually hear about. The context is: 1) Kingdom Tour, Jesus announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and demonstrating certain aspects of it as we have already seen. 2) Jesus has just calmed the storm, showing He has command over both Nature and this world. Now, He confronts the storm within the human soul and His enemies immediately surrender, and the human soul is restored to wholeness… and sent out to share his testimony with others. This, dear reader, is a picture of redemption and the age to come; that age is the one in which you and I are living.
Our adversary is cunning and dangerous, and we must not take him lightly. Yet, we must also not over-estimate his strength, for greater is He who is in us that he who is in this world. I always like to add one more thing here: We are also the ones who are on the offensive while our enemy is on the defensive, desperately trying to hold on to what he has, in a cause he knows will fail.