They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
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 own people 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 5:1-20
I love this passage. The formerly demon-possessed man became the very first missionary! Jesus gave him his own personal Great Commission. He didn’t go to seminary or take any kind of training. He got delivered and sent, just like that.
The Gerasene man also gives us hope. He had been not just tormented, not just oppressed, but completely and totally demon possessed, and yet, God sent him out as a missionary. It takes away every excuse for not answering a missionary call.
I was thinking about the Gerasene man today and it occurred to me to wonder how many soldiers were in a Roman Legion. It turns out that there was somewhere between 4000-6000 men in a Roman Legion. Notice that Mark says that there were about 2000 pigs. Not that the number of pigs has to match the number of demons exactly, but one of the devil’s tactics is to scare people by making himself seem more powerful (or more numerous) than he actually is.
I’ve had Christians ask me, “Do you think the devil can read my thoughts?” with obvious terror in their eyes. Absolutely not! I told them. But he’s been watching people since the beginning of time, so he can make a pretty good guess about your thoughts, based on his vast experience and your facial expression. But don’t let that scare you.
The devil wants us (especially Christians) to be so paralyzed by fear that we never fight any spiritual battles. But know this: the only way that the devil can possibly win is if we don’t fight. And the only offensive weapon we have, according to Ephesians 6, is the Sword of the Spirit: God’s Word. We don’t have to fight in the same way the world fights. We just need to stand on the Word of God. That’s what Jesus did when He was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil.
So how many demons were in the Gerasene man? I don’t know. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the devil didn’t fudge the number. They do it in Washington all the time! (Oops! Did I really write that?) But God is still good!