One of the most intriguing accounts in the gospels is the account of the Gadarene demoniac. The story appears in Matthew 8, Mark 4, and Luke 8. Any account that shows up three times in the gospels should be given a closer look.


You know the story. The apostles and Jesus got into their small boat to cross the sea of Galilee at night. The area is subject to sudden storms and so during the crossing a severe squall came up, waves were washing over the boat, and the disciples were terrified. Jesus was asleep, they woke him, and he rebuked the storm. The wind and waves ceased immediately and they were astonished that Jesus could command even the storm. As if that weren’t “weird” enough, as soon as they arrived at their destination, a man who lived in a shoreline cemetery and was tormented by demons ran to Jesus. This was a man who was naked, scarred by him cutting himself with stones, dirty, manic, and who had displayed supernatural strength when townspeople had tried to bind him. He ran to Jesus and the demons within the man cried out for mercy. The commanding spirit identified himself as Legion because there were so many demons afflicting the man. They asked Jesus to allow them to enter into a nearby herd of swine. As they left the man and entered the pigs, the entire herd rushed down an embankment into the lake and were drowned.


The Gospel of Mark then states, “Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mark 5:14-21)


Notice that the “possessed” man was now dressed and in his right mind. The supernatural flavor of all that had happened frightened the people who lived nearby. The supernatural quieting of the storm on Galilee the night before had the same affect on the twelve. Now the people asked Jesus to leave their region. Predictably, the man who had just been set free from terrible torment did not want to be separated from the one who had freed him.


If I had been that man, I would have been terrified that those same spirits who had made my life a living hell would return and take possession again once Jesus was out of sight. Jesus, however, told the man that he could not go with him but should simply go and tell people what God had done for him. A close friend recently pointed out that the story raises several questions. First of all, Matthew records that there were two demon-possessed men who were living in the tombs who ran to Jesus, but the gospels quickly focus on only one. Why? What happened to the second man? Secondly, what prevented the man from being “repossessed” after Jesus left? He did not have the Spirit of God living in him because the Spirit had not yet been given. He apparently was not part of a great “spirit-filled” synagogue where he was prayed over and discipled. He, in fact, knew very little about the man who had just set him free.


What we do know about this man is that he immediately became a Christ-follower and was obedient to Christ. Jesus told him to go and tell his family what God had done for him. Mark tells us, “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mk.5:20-21). We have to speculate, but perhaps the second man left as soon as he was delivered to go back to the life he had known before his demonization. The other stayed close to the one who had set him free. His heart was turned to Jesus because of what Jesus had just done for him.


As his heart was turned to Jesus, he was willing to do what Jesus asked him to do. In this case, it was to go and tell others. Jesus said, If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn.14:15). Those who love Jesus are known and remembered in heaven. He was remembered in three gospels while the other man simply disappeared. Love and obedience also garner heaven’s protection and provision. I believe that is why the man was not lost again to the enemy. We can’t be sure about his friend.


There is a maxim among those who minister in spiritual warfare. “The first battle is to get free. The second battle is to stay free.” The Gadarene demonstrates that the second battle is won by loving Jesus and walking in obedience. A life of love and obedience provides no open doors for the enemy. We have delivered hundreds of people from demons. Those who draw close to Jesus afterward with a heart to obey, stay free. Those who drift back to old lifestyles and sinful relationships, find themselves worse off than in the beginning. Some of them, like the second man, have simply disappeared from the life of the church. Jesus give a stern warning in Matthew 12 when he said that if a man is freed from a demon, and does not fill the vacancy with the Spirit of God and the things of God, that spirit will return and bring others with him. Then the man will be worse of than before. I think the two Gadarenes may be an illustration of that truth.


In our own lives and ministries, we need to be very aware of that principle and keep ourselves close to Jesus, in love with him, and obedient. We must also warn those to whom we minister, of the spiritual risks involved if they receive healing or freedom from Jesus and then go their own way. The fruit of the Gadarene’s obedience is that when Jesus returned to the area, after first being asked to leave, multitudes were waiting to hear him. Sometimes, we don’t need a sermon of even a great deal of theology, we simply needs to share our own story to bring others to Jesus.




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