I’ve been reading some of the parables in Mark 5 and spent some time reflecting on the story of the Geresene demoniac and the demons called “Legion.”
The story, as you probably know, involves a man afflicted by demons who lived in a region east of the Jordan River. Three of the Gospels (but not John) mention the story in detail and refer to “the country of the Gerasenes or the Gadarenes.” Both the city of Gadara (see MT 8:28) and the city of Gerasa were in this area but Gerasa was much larger and more influential and might be the reason it is more often referenced in the Bible. This area now is mostly contained within the country of Jordan.
I first find it interesting that the un-named man was “living” among the tombs (Mark 5:3). The Bible notes that the man was unusually strong and quite able to break the chains with which the local populace had tried to bind him. Maybe, for that reason and out of fear, the locals just left him alone. And since he chose to live among the tombs and mountains (Mark 5:5) he was no threat to other people. Also, since he was possessed by many demons, the demons were presumably comfortable living among the dead in the area of the tombs. Very macabre. As the Bible points out, he was so very much stronger than anyone else, so he could have lived/stayed anywhere he wanted, but chose the area of the dead.
A second thing which caught my attention: when the possessing demons were confronted by Jesus they ask Him not to send them “…into the abyss” (Luke 8:31) but rather, allow them to enter the grazing swine nearby (Mark notes that there were some 2,000 swine there). Jesus grants their request, and they enter the swine which then rush headlong down the bank and into the sea where they drowned (Mark 5:13). Two questions then enter my mind: 1) since the swine drowned, what became of the legion of demons, and 2) why would Jesus allow them to enter and kill the swine, a herd which probably was important to the livelihood of the local populace?
The Bible doesn’t answer the first question, but in my research on the second point some interesting theories are postulated. One idea suggests that Jesus wanted to show the people present exactly what the demons intend: once they possess the pigs, they immediately lead them to their deaths. A second idea suggests that Jesus wanted to show us the importance of a human being, one made in the image of God. Rather than letting the demons continue to afflict (and presumably, ultimately kill this one man) Jesus allowed the deaths of 2,000 swine. This makes His point that we individually are more important than any animal, even 2,000 of them! In a commentary on Mark by Dr. R.C. Sproul, he says: Jesus’ compassion on the man “drove Him to destroy the pigs for the sake of one human life. That is how valuable human life is.” Unfortunately, according to the Bible account, the people gathered there fail to rejoice that the man is “now clothed and in his right mind….” Instead, they are afraid and ask Jesus to leave their region. Which leads me to a passage in Isaiah.
God is speaking in Is 65:4 and is rebuking Israel (Is 65:1) as a “nation which did not call on my name.” In verse 4, God links Israel to both tombs and swine:
“A people who … sit among the graves, and spend the night in the tombs;
Who eat swine’s flesh, and the broth of abominable things [unclean meat] is in their vessel.”
By: Lee Pierce