Demoniac. With such a fearful label it would be hard to testify to anything, let alone to the Lord. But that is exactly what Jesus called one healed man to do, testify in the very city that had once shunned him.
There are many examples of exorcism in the New Testament, many performed by Jesus himself. Yet there is one that continuously catches my eye when I read the gospels. As I’m re-reading Luke in anticipation of Resurrection Sunday (Easter), the account of the Gerasene demoniac grabbed by attention again. This time, I saw boldness – in both the demon and the healed man.
Jesus used signs and miracles to bolster His words, to underscore the authority He spoke of and with. From the beginning of His earthly ministry people understood that Jesus had power, but no one – not even His disciples – truly grasped that He was the Christ. Even when Peter did profess that Jesus was the Messiah, he didn’t understand that Jesus’ kingdom was not an earthly one, let alone that Jesus would have to die to become King (Luke 9:20).** What is striking, then, is that the demons were the only ones to recognize Jesus for who He is, God incarnate.
It is through this lens that the Gerasene demoniac viewed Jesus. In this encounter, the demon-possessed man met Jesus as soon as he arrived on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee:
“When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?'” – Luke 8:28a
Between falling to the ground and calling out to Jesus, Jesus commanded the demon to come out of the man. The demon responded, “I beg you, do not torment me (Luke 8:28b).” Jesus grants the demon’s request not to be thrown back into the abyss (the confinement for evil spirits*), allowing “Legion” to enter into swine instead, who then immediately “rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned (Luke 8:33).”
That’s the last of Legion. But what about the healed man? He begged to be able to leave with Jesus. Except Jesus wouldn’t let him:
‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.‘ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. -Luke 8:39
Here was a man who had been possessed by a legion of demons, who was so feared that he was often chained and shackled, bonds which he always broke (Luke 8:29). The demons drove him out of the city to live among the tombs, where, presumably, his nakedness and howling were less bothersome. When this man was made clean, the people of the city went out to see what had happened that day. They found the former demoniac “clothed and in his right mind (v. 35).” But, rather than praising Jesus and sending their sick and possessed to Him for healing, as hordes of others had, these people were fearful and asked Jesus to leave (v. 37). It was to these people that Jesus told the man to minister.
I don’t know about you, but I would be terrified to go back to the very people that had once shunned me, to people that knew every embarrassing detail of my past. This man was called to do just that. Do you think he went back to life as it was before he was possessed – presumably to a home, a family, or a job? Probably not. The only thing he had to hold on to in his new life was bold faith.
What did he do with his bold faith? He testified.
Luke wrote that not only did this man return to the city, he proclaimed all that Jesus had done for him throughout the city. Mark, in his gospel, adds that everyone marveled (Mark 5:20). How was this man so successful in spreading the message? After all, the people were afraid of Jesus so why would they trust the man whom Jesus healed? The answer likely revolves around the way he lived. In other words, his lifestyle likely became as much of a testimony as his words.
This is strikingly similar to how Paul taught among the Corinthians:
“[When] I came to you, brothers, [I] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul let an honest and humble approach be the proof of his integrity. We can theorize that this was how the former demoniac approached his calling as well.
Many times in the last couple years I’ve wanted to go on mission trips, but due to my health, have been unable to do so. I was reminded by a good friend, though, that my life is a mission. Building relationships with others – at work, at home, at church, in the community, etc, – and sharing life with them is living life on-mission. Ever heard the saying, actions speak louder than words? Well, its true.
Are you a Christian? If so, then you can join me in learning to let our lives be touched by the healing power of Jesus’ work on the cross. We may not be called to go back to the places of our past lives to testify, like the former demoniac, but our lifestyle – how we live where we are now – should reflect our testimony. Let’s prayerfully consider areas of our lives we don’t normally let God be the Lord of, then let Him guide us to living on-mission for Him every ordinary day.
Always seeking to be found in Him,
**It was only after Jesus’ resurrection that Jesus explained to the disciples that His earthly ministry was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic prophesy (Luke 24:27). The gospels were written in order that the readers – including us – could see Jesus as key to God’s grand redemption plan.
*Reformation Study Bible description for abyss as found in Luke 8:31.
This post has been shared with the following link-ups: Gospel Moments – CandidlyChristian