Luke 8 Part 2
19. Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd.
Now Miriam once again comes into the picture, although here she is just called His mother. She is with His brothers. There are those who try to argue that the Lord had no brothers, but rather that He was the only child of Mary. Yet this is just not the case. The Lord had brothers, or rather half-brothers, as we would call them, through Mary and Joseph. Now, His mother and brothers come to Him. Yet they are not able to approach Him because of the crowd that is surrounding Him. This was not an unusual thing, for the Lord was very popular, and was often surrounded by crowds.
In Mark 3:21, we read, “But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” From this verse, we learn that at one time, the Lord’s own people had come to drag Him away, believing that He was mad. In Mark, this statement closely precedes the story of the Lord’s mother and brothers coming to Him. It may be that these things were related, and His mother and brothers were there to try to bring Him back home and sequester Him, thinking Him mad. If so, they certainly were not acting out of faith, nor in a way that was pleasing to God. Yet I do not believe that this alone explains what happened next. There are other important things that the Lord would have us learn from this.
20. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”
It would appear that the Lord was in His house at this particular time. The house is full, as it often was, with those who had come to see Him. Now some come to Him and tell Him about the fact that His mother and brothers are standing outside, desiring to see Him. Perhaps they were inside the house, and heard the message passed from one outside, or perhaps it was passed to them through a window.
21. But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
The Lord Jesus reveals that His true family are those who express faith, that is, those who hear the word of God and do it. This is yet another place where the Word of God reveals to us what faith is. It is defined here as hearing the word of God and doing it. Thus it is both belief in the Word and actions based on that belief. When we do this regarding the message of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, when we believe this message and act and think accordingly, then this is how we all enter God’s family. And when we read God’s Word and respond by hearing and doing what it says, then we are continuing in faith. This is what God desires from each one of us today.
We learn a very important lesson from this. We learn that there was nothing special about those who happened to be related to Christ by blood. In our worldly contacts, we often given preference to those who are family to us. Men might have imagined that the Lord would favor His family when it came to their interactions with Him. Yet we see from this passage that this was not the case. Even His closest relatives were to receive no special treatment from Him. Truly flesh and blood, what men are by birth and descent, did not matter to Him. Even His mother, which is perhaps the closest relative that anyone has, was not going to receive favorable treatment from God because of her relationship to Him. She too could only enter God’s family by faith.
We do not learn whether or not the Lord’s family ever got in to see Him. They may have, but if they did, they had to wait their turn, just like everyone else.
22. Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out.
Now it is some time later, on a certain day. On this day, He gets into a boat with His disciples, commanding them to cross over to the other side of the lake. We learn from the account in Mark that several little boats also accompanied them.
As we examine this account and the accounts in Mark 4:35-41 and Matthew 8:23-27, we will notice that the account in Matthew took place at a different time than this account. For example, the account in Matthew was before the event of His mother and brothers coming to Him (Matthew 12,) whereas this account in Luke and the account in Mark are both after this event. Although there are not any immediately noticeable differences between the three accounts, we would conclude that the account in Matthew must be a similar but different account to the one recorded in Mark and Luke. The idea that similar circumstances would bring about a similar response from the Lord is not far-fetched, but rather most logical. Also if we factor in the likelihood that both these storms were an attempt by Satan to slay the Lord, it makes sense that the event of the Lord Jesus going upon the waters like this would have brought about an attack from the Evil One more than once. These accounts, although they appear to contradict as to when this event occurred, are actually references to two different (but quite similar) events.
23. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.
The Lord’s ministry must have been quite exhausting, and so the Lord must have valued any time He could find to rest and sleep. Since it was both the disciples’ task and something they were quite expert at to sail the ship, the Lord takes the opportunity here to get some sleep. Yet while He is sleeping, a great windstorm arises. The Greek word here is lailaps, which means a squall or windstorm. Yet if we would compare this with Matthew 8:24, we would find that the word there is seismos, which means that the storm of Matthew was caused by a great earthquake. So we see that the words used bear out the idea that these were two separate events.
This windstorm was very severe, and as I said above, could well have been an attack of the enemy. The storm was causing the boat to fill with water, and they were in serious danger of being swamped by the waves.
24. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm.
The disciples respond with fear to this great storm, and go to the Lord for help. Their distress is shown by their urgent repetition of the Lord’s name, “Master, Master!” In some ways we cannot blame them for their fright because of the power of this storm. Yet when they came and awoke the Lord, His calm in the face of the storm was in stark contrast with their panic. But at least they did this correctly, in that they came to the right Person for help!
That Christ would rebuke the weather, as if it was doing something wrong, shows that this storm was likely no natural occurrence, but rather an attack stirred up by the Evil One. It is impossible for us to know everything that causes the inclement weather that we encounter in this world. We certainly cannot say that there is direct Satanic involvement every time there is a storm. Yet we do know that this world has been damaged by things like the flood, both that we as men have brought upon the earth, and that Satan and his war against God have caused. To call every storm an “act of God” is, however, very much a slander against Him. He does not cause every killer storm front that occurs in this world. In this case, He rebuked the storm, for it was not there in accordance with His will. For all we know, the same may be true of many storms today.
How easily the Creator of the forces of nature could turn the terrible tempest into calm! No doubt the disciples’ thoughts could not help but go back to the story of Jonah, and they must surely have realized that the same God Who had stopped the storm that threatened the ship Jonah was thrown out of was the only One Who could have stopped this storm in like manner. No wonder they marveled!
25. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”
The panic of the disciples was caused by lack of faith. If they had trusted in what they knew of the One Who was with them, they would not have been frightened of the mere threat of nature, knowing that the very Creator of nature was with them. As Otis Q. Sellers points out, no ship can sink when the Lord Jesus Christ is in it. This is true of the ship of our lives as well. We know that even when we die, when can be assured that, with the Lord Jesus Christ in the ship of our lives, we will be raised from the dead someday to enjoy our place in God’s kingdom.
The disciples may have dedicated their lives to following the Lord, but it is clear that they still were far from understanding Him. Thus, when this took place, they were afraid and marveled at it. They pondered Who it could be Whom even the winds and the water would obey. Of course, we realize that this was the very One Who created these things, and Whose right it is to command them. Praise God for our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
26. Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee.
They arrive at the country of the Gadarenes, which was opposite Galilee. What is recorded here is not the same event as that recorded in the book of Matthew in chapter 8 verses 28-34, which sets forth something that happened at the country of the Gergesenes. In that event, there were two demon-possessed men rather than one. I believe that these were two separate but similar events. See my message on “Contradictions in Scripture: The Demons and the Swine” for more details on the difference between these two events. This is the same event as is recorded in Mark 5:1-20, however.
27. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs.
As soon as the Lord stepped out on land, this demon-possessed man met Him. When we first arrive at a place, it takes a while to assess the situation and get settled in, yet there was no time allowed for anyone to do this. So is Satan often ready to attack us just when we perhaps are not ready or expecting it. Yet the Lord was not taken by surprise, and He was ready for this encounter.
Now we come upon this strange phenomenon of demon possession. This is not something we read about in the Old Testament, nor is it something that seems to exist in our world today. We would not deny that demons and the forces of the Evil One are at work today, or even that they are influencing people, but this particularly hideous manifestation of them at least seems no longer to be existing in the world today. This possession seems to have almost been a common thing in that day, and everyone seemed to know about it and even to recognize the symptoms. We can be thankful that God appears to have relieved us from having to face such a thing today, for in the dispensation of grace we would not have the power they did in the Acts period to face up to it.
Consider the terrible plight of this man. Filled with demons, naked, dwelling among the dead…surely no situation could be grimmer. Moreover, he had been in this sad condition for a long time. No wonder he dwelt among the dead, for it seemed that he was indeed already dead, at least as far as any kind of normal life was concerned. We notice that the Lord Jesus landed right on the shore where this man dwelt, however. His plight, forgotten, ignored, and feared by men, was not unnoticed by our Lord.
28. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!”
It seems that in contrast to the account in the book of Mark, which gives the words of the demons possessing the man, here we have the words of the man himself. This man dreads what the Lord might do to him now. After all the terrible things the demons had done to him, no doubt he expected nothing less from the Lord. Often those who are abused can see nothing at first from those who would help them than another person to cause them hurt. This man was faced with the only One Who could truly help him, yet all he could think of was more trouble.
The man uses a single name for the Lord, “Jesus.” This is not the way any of His disciples ever addressed Him, preferring to call Him “Lord.” But when this demon-possessed man speaks the sacred Name, it is as if it were a curse. We need to use great care how we speak the name of Jesus. It is a name worthy of great respect, and though we love this One, we should never fail to honor Him.
The word for “torment” here is basanises. There was a stone called “basanite” that was used as a touchstone. If you rubbed this stone on gold it would make a mark. If you rubbed it on something that was not gold, it would make no mark. Thus, to put something to the basanite was to put it to a thorough and revealing test. This word is used in the same way as it is here in Matthew 14:24, where the form is basanizomenon. There, the boat that the disciples were traveling in is said to be “tormented” by the waves. Of course, this makes little sense, so the translators there make it “buffeted.” The fact is that the boat was being severely tested by the waves, as to whether or not it would be able to hold up to them. Thus, basanizo means to put to a thorough or revealing test.
Now, as time went on and the Roman Empire became more corrupt, the common method of “testing” prisoners came to be torture. Thus, this word degenerated to mean “torment.” However, I do not believe that this was its meaning in the Biblical usage, and at least in Matthew 14:24, it is clear that it holds the earlier meaning. In this passage I believe that the demon-possessed man does not want to be put to a thorough and revealing test by the Lord, for he does not believe that he can stand up to any such test. Of course, who could, if the Lord truly sought to judge us for our sins?
29. For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.
The Lord had already commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man, which is what had elicited this exclamation from him.
Now, we learn yet more about this man’s sad condition. It seems that this spirit would oftentimes seize him with violent and uncontrollable results. Apparently the people of that region were at their wits’ end what to do with this man. He had been chained up and put under guard, but the demons gave him great enough strength to break the bond and escape from the guards. Upon doing this, the demon had driven him to flee into the wilderness, and now these demons kept him imprisoned there where none, it seemed, could help him. Yet now One had come Who could!
It is interesting to notice that the Lord was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for His encounter with the devil. Now again he meets a demon-possessed man in the wilderness, and this man himself had been driven by the unclean spirit into the wilderness. It seems that the wilderness was a common place for the Lord to encounter Satan and his forces.
30. Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him.
The Lord questions the demon, and is told that there were actually a “legion” of demons in this man. Apparently more than one demon are able to possess a person at a time. The word legion in Greek is a word of uncertain number, but appears to have consisted of up to 6,826 men. It could be that there were actually thousands of demons inhabiting this poor man!
We know by comparing verse 27, where these are called daimonia or “demons,” with verse 29, where they are called pneumati or “spirits,” that these demons were actually the fallen version of what are called elsewhere “spirits.” These spirit beings apparently have no physical body, and thus are not to be confused with angels, who have a physical body and have often interacted with men in appearance as a man.
It seems that these spirits, though they have no body of their own, are able to enter the physical body of a human or other creature, usurping or at least sharing control with the spirit of the person whose body they are stealing. That this is not what God intended spirits to do is obvious. This entering of physical bodies may be in a way similar to the “forbidden fruit” for spirit beings, and may actually have been the cause of these spirits falling away from God. On the other hand, these spirits may have already fallen from God by some other means, and this was just one more rebellion against Him.
31. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.
It seems that for a spirit who was possessing a body it was very undesirable to leave it. It may be that possessing a body is somewhat addicting to spirits. These demons did not wish to leave this man “cold turkey,” as we would say, nor to enter into the abyss. This is the Greek word abussos, and it is very difficult to say what it is referring to. Abyss may just mean the empty void without a physical body (from whence they had come.) In Romans 10:7, it refers to Christ in the state of death. Yet in the book of Revelation chapter 9, it refers to a place from which “locusts,” which seem to symbolize demons, are loosed. In Revelation 20:1-3, it is the name of the place where Satan is shut up for the thousand years of Christ’s parousia. Thus, here it may refer to some sort of prison for disobedient spirits, to which these did not wish to go. At any rate, whatever going into the abyss meant, this was not something these demons desired.
32. Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them.
Now we are informed that there were many swine feeding there on the mountain, apparently being raised by these Gadarenes. Swine were unclean animals according to God’s law, and as such they were unlawful for Israelites to eat. These Gadarenes were probably raising these swine to sell them to Gentiles for food. Yet this was not a good thing for an Israelite to do, for it was skirting around God’s command that these were unclean beasts.
Now these demons offer the Lord an alternative plan to casting them into the abyss. Instead, they begged Him to allow them to enter these swine instead. These were unclean animals, and would certainly be a fitting abode for unclean spirits. I cannot help but note how similar this sounds to drug addicts, who will seem to turn to any drug in a pinch, even to such things as sniffing gasoline or overdosing on household drugs. This sin of possessing apparently had a strong hold indeed on these demons, that they would desire to enter a herd of pigs!
Now the Lord permits these demons to enter the swine. As we noted, swine were not something an Israelite really should have been raising, and so the Lord is justified in allowing these swine to be destroyed. The swine should not have been there at all, and so what the people of this city will lose is something they should not have had in the first place. In most cases even when reforming Jesus did not cause deliberate property loss, but He seems to have made an exception in the case of this unclean herd.
33. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.
The demons then leave the man and enter into the swine. There must have been many of them indeed to fill this entire heard of many swine with at least a demon apiece! The result of this is that the swine ran violently down a steep place (or precipice) into the lake (or the Sea of Galilee) and are drowned. Whether this is what the demons really intended for their new hosts, or whether this was an involuntary action on the part of the pigs that they could not control, or whether the Lord directed this to happen, it is difficult to say. At any rate, these demons quickly lost their new hosts.
34. When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.
The men who were feeding these pigs, what we would call swineherds, see this. Of course, they were not happy at all to have their entire herd of pigs drowned and destroyed. Thus, they flee from the scene, and tell in the city and in the country what had happened. The swineherds would not have necessarily been the owners of these pigs, so they were probably reporting to their masters. Of course, their primary concern was that their herd of pigs had been destroyed. Little did they care that a man held prisoner to a terrible fate had been rescued, or that the power of God had been revealed.
35. Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
Now those who dwelt in that country come out to see what has happened. When they come to the Lord Jesus, they see a most amazing sight. They see this man, whom they had been utterly unable to control or help, sitting at the feet of the Lord, clothed and in his right mind. Now this man knew the Lord Jesus not as another one who would hurt him but as the Savior Who had delivered him, and as such he sat at His feet. How deeply this man’s gratitude must have run for the Man Who thus had saved him when no one else could! But was my situation any better, an unclean man living among the dead, before this same Jesus saved me and clothed me with His righteousness? May the same gratitude fill my heart for my wonderful Savior!
These men of the city and country are afraid when they see this. I do not believe their fear was because this revealed what a powerful being the Lord Jesus must be to have done such a thing, though it certainly had done that. Rather, I believe their fear was because they had been caught in this illicit activity of raising swine. Clearly, here was One Who had the power and authority to judge them for this ungodly activity, and their consciences told them that they had much to fear.
Notice that the demon had driven this man to not wear clothes, as we saw in verse 27. Upon encountering the Lord, however, he immediately clothed himself once again. This should be sufficient to answer those who claim the title of “Christian nudists.” It is not the Lord who impels men not to wear clothes. Rather, in Scripture, it is quite the opposite.
36. They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed.
Now the swineherds who had seen what the Lord had done when He healed the demon-possessed man repeat their story for those who had come out to see. Again, these were probably their masters, and they wanted them to judge what should be done about this Man Who had so interrupted their means of livelihood.
The word used for demon-possessed is “demonized” in Greek. This man was demonized indeed, with all these spirits in him! While men may not be demonized in the same way today, we can be sure that such spirits of evil are still at work in this world, and that there are many things in this world so full of their influence that they might still be termed as “demonized,” if we could but see behind the scenes to know how they came about.
37. Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.
Although the formerly possessed man now understood the love of the Lord, the men of the country had no such revelation and only saw a powerful being who could cause them hurt. Their means of financial gain had been damaged when their herd of pigs had been destroyed, and they feared the power of One Who could cast out demons. Thus in their fear they asked the Lord to leave them. How sad that their fear kept them from the One Who could likewise save their own rebellious souls!
Yet how similar this is to how our society might react to a similar situation. We could point to many industries that we are tied to that at their core are wicked and ungodly. We could speak of the gambling industry, which is connected to so much greed and corruption. We could speak of the pornography industry, which promotes much destructive behavior and which exploits those who are weak and damaged and helpless. We could even mention the tobacco industry, which so many in our society decry and yet which pays so much in taxes to support our government that they wouldn’t dare to do anything to permanently disrupt it. And there certainly are other things in our society which are more or less tied to destructive behaviors, if not to wickedness. Yet what if the Lord were to judge our society and remove such industries? They are so tied into the fabric of our economy that we all would lose financially if even one of them was brought to an end. Thus we are all tied to that which is wicked and destructive. May the Lord have grace upon us all, and bring about His perfect government, when all such things will be removed, and yet all will be blessed because of it!
Now the Lord graciously grants the request of these men, and departs from them, even as He had granted the request of the demons before them. Indeed, perhaps it makes sense to us, considering the kind of culture they appeared to have in this area, that there would be such a thing as this demon possessed man among them!
38. Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying,
The man freed of the demons now begs Him to allow him to remain with Him. Having found a Man Who truly loved and cared for him, this man was eager to be with Him. Yet the Lord this time does not grant his request, but rather sends him away. This man had been freed, but not to be allowed to become a follower of the Lord Jesus. Later, if he still lived, he would have an opportunity to join the Lord’s movement in the Acts period, there is no doubt of that.
39. “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
The Lord Jesus had a better plan for him. Though they had driven Him out, the Lord had not yet given up on the men of the country, and encouraged this man to go to his own house and to tell them of the great things God had done for him. Perhaps from this man who now understood the love of the Lord the men of that country could overcome their fear and learn to love Him as well. So the man obeys, and tells not just his own family but also throughout the whole city what great things the Lord Jesus had done for him. We can pray that some among them learned from this testimony, and believed in the One Who had such power to deliver and to save.