“So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him.“
My devotional time has been spent camped out in Capernaum for weeks. Throughout this journey into the words of Jesus, a journey sparked by conviction and continued in curiosity and wonder, I’ve found that the more I stay with Jesus, the less I want to leave Him. While all Scripture is God-breathed, the Gospels recount the Word and His many interactions with everything and everyone that is not like Him. Therefore – there’s so much to learn. Every phrase breathes life.
Even the uncomfortable ones.
We’ve all heard about the man possessed with a “Legion” of demons who’s deliverance ended in the passing of many pigs. (Er, if some of us haven’t, go check out Mark 5.)
Hey, church people! Let’s get honest: many of us don’t quite know how to approach this passage. The imagery is so far-removed from anything we’ve ever seen with our own eyes, so we catalogue it as one of those crazy Jesus stories and just chalk it up to the mysterious power of God. Plus, the demon stories make us squirm, so we skip over the prelude and search the page for red letters to read.
Spoiler alert: Jesus gives the demons permission to enter a bunch of pigs. The guy goes away praising God.
I get it. Demons are creepy. But please, let me challenge you: linger in the uncomfortable passages.
Why? Because there’s so much to learn – about ourselves, spiritual forces, and Jesus.
For example: this man’s behavior is a perfect representation of demonic behavior. Jesus taught that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand – and we can clearly see that the kingdom of darkness uniformly controlled the life of this man. The legion – or, anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 demonic spirits – worked in tandem to keep this man in Satan’s mission of prolonged destruction and isolation.
Because we do not war against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, it would benefit us to learn more about our enemy’s tactics.
So, what can we learn about the nature of demonic oppression from this man?
1.) Demons destroy the image of God in us.
Put yourself in the context of this passage, just for a minute.
See the man: the man with long, thick, curly black hair and tanned brown skin. See the man who scares the village, the man who looks more like an animal than a man. The man who never sleeps, never ceases from howling and running and bleeding. See the man who looks like death, sounds like death, and dwells in the realm of the dead.
Let’s face it: nothing about this man’s existence is pleasant. He doesn’t have community. He doesn’t have a home. He doesn’t love. He doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t even feel pain!
His life looks completely opposite of the life that God intended for us to have – the life that Jesus died to give us.
We are created in the image of our God – and our God is the God of the living, not the dead. Though demons might not murder us, they will murder everything in us that looks like God.
St. Iraeneus is famously quoted for saying, “For the glory of God is the living man, and the life of man is the vision of God.”
If a demon can kill any part of us that was meant to reflect God’s glory, we look less and less like God.
God is peace. God is joy. God is love.
By stealing your peace, your joy, your love, Satan steals God’s glory. He purposely dims the holy fire lit in the hearts of God’s most beautiful creation – humans – to make us look more like him and less like our Father in Heaven. Don’t let him do it! Let’s get jealous for God’s glory! Pray and ask the Father to order your life’s steps in the way that would draw attention to Him.
2.) Demons are drawn to the presence of Jesus.
The passage tells us that the moment Jesus climbed out of the boat, the man came out from the tombs to meet Him. They sensed Jesus coming out of the boat. And in our lives, they can sense His presence from miles away.
This is why you and your husband will get into a fight while you’re in the car on your way to marriage counseling. This is why you begin to hear voices of doubts in your head whenever the pastor opens up the altar for prayer. Demonic forces can sense the power and the presence of Jesus. They can sense the approaching healing, and they want to do everything they can to keep you from Him – so they come out of hiding when His spirit approaches. They want to scare you away from meeting with Jesus because they know they’re no match for Him.
Knowing this can help prepare you for deliverance! Don’t be scared. Don’t be fooled. When demons come out to play, the healing power of Jesus is on its way. Push through.
3.) Physical bondage cannot free us from spiritual bondage.
This point is two-fold.
Firstly: we cannot fight a spiritual war with physical weapons. Simmering in the passage shows us that the man could not be restrained by any of our world’s means. While the purpose of chains and shackles is to bind, we cannot use physical methods to bind spiritual forces. They tried putting physical shackles on the man with spiritual shackles – it didn’t work. The sheer nature of anything natural is powerless compared to the anything supernatural.
Secondly: We cannot bind spiritual forces with more bondage. Bondage does not lead to freedom. Only freedom leads to freedom.
What do I mean by this?
Imagine that you are heavily addicted to pornography. You want to stop because your addiction is affecting others. So, you concur, “This is a physical addiction. If I remove all physical aspects of this addiction by placing boundaries and binders on my behavior…and if I limit my access to it, I will no longer partake in it. This is way to defeat it.”
And thus, you add chains to your chains.
You unsubscribe from porn websites. You place software on your computer that blocks you from accessing the websites. You may even exchange your smart phone for a dumb phone to limit access to the internet.
Please, hear me: all these actions are recommended actions to take. Jesus said himself, “If your eye causes you to sin, gauge it out.” Get radical in your pursuit of freedom and get rid of any open doors to temptation.
But if you do not first heal from the spiritual chains of the agreement of addiction, and replace that spiritual bondage with spiritual freedom, the physical chains you place over your spiritual chains will not suffice.
The spiritual chains will break through the physical chains you have placed over them.
Translation? You will find a way to access porn. And once you do, you will be so ashamed of the measures you had to undergo to fulfill your craving, your chains of shame will become even heavier. Your bondage will lead to more bondage.
Bondage does not lead to freedom.
Freedom leads to freedom – freedom that can only be found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Freedom that we don’t have to work for or earn – we must just receive.
Now, be free!
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.