FAQs about the Gerasene Demoniac – Luke 8:26-39


by CVC Founding Pastor Rick Duncan 

Note: This story is also found in Matthew 8:28-34 and Mark 5:1-20.

What are the main points of this story?

Jesus has authority over oppressive demonic powers that wreak havoc in people’s lives. He frees people from the debilitating effects of demonic activity so they can function in life “in their right minds.”

What is the country of the Gerasenes?

It was a Gentile region on the southeast side of the Sea of Galilee. The incident occurs near Gerasa, a small town by the Sea. Jesus, who came primarily focused on reaching the lost sheep of Israel (and, through them, the rest of the world), is now extending His saving love to Gentiles. In this story, Jesus has moved from Jewish to Gentile territory.

What are demons?

Demons are angels who were created by God. They were originally good, but they sinned and became evil.  2 Peter 2:4 says, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.” Jude 6 says, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, He has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” Some have theorized that there are two classes of fallen angels, those who are imprisoned and those who are free to carry on their evil in the world. Others maintain that these verses above describe the current condition of all demons – chained in gloomy darkness – but still free to carry on their evil activities.

When did the cosmic demonic rebellion occur?

It must have occurred between the time when God completed the creation and pronounced it all “very good” and the temptation and fall of man. Scripture does not narrate the fall of Satan and his angels, but Isaiah 14:3-21 and Ezekiel 28:2-19 deal with the defeat of the kings of Babylon and Tyre, respectively, using imagery suggesting analogies with the fall of Satan.

What is the goal of demons?

Demons, like Satan, seek to steal, kill, and destroy. They, like Satan, engage in all the forms of temptation and deception which Satan employs. Demons oppose the spiritual progress of God’s people (Ephesians 6:12). In the case of the Gerasene demoniac in Luke 8, these demons collectively had severely damaged this man so that he was not clearly reflecting the image of God. This man’s demonization was evident in his social isolation, his superhuman strength, and his self-destructive tendencies.

What are the manifestations in the life of a person who has been demonized?

These manifestations do not always occur in every case. They are varied in Scripture. Unusual strength (Mark 5:2-4). Bizarre actions (Luke 8:27). Self-destructive behaviors (Matthew 17:5). The common element is that the persons are being destroyed, whether that be physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Note that demons are able to speak using the vocal equipment of the person possessed (Matthew 8:29, 31; Mark 1:24, 26,34).

Why did this man run and fall down before Jesus?

It may indicate that the man himself longed to be free from the demons. It may indicate that the demons were gripped by an involuntary submission to the authority of Jesus.

How did this man know who Jesus was?

The demons know that one of Satan’s strongholds, the spiritual world of darkness, is being invaded and overpowered by the Lord.

Who is speaking to Jesus – the man or the demons?

It appears here that the demons had taken over the man’s voice.

How many times did Jesus command the unclean spirits to leave the man?

“He was saying to him” (Mark 5:8) indicates that Jesus had told the spirits more than once to come out of the man, but the spirits had not obeyed. It’s important to note that Jesus cast out demons without pronouncing an elaborate formula. He merely commanded them to come out.

Why did Jesus ask him his name?

This question was asked, not out of the ignorance in Jesus. It was asked for the sake of those who were with Him. Jesus wanted His followers to know more about the miserable condition of this man. And He wanted everyone to see just how great His power was in freeing a man like this from demonic possession.

What does the name “legion” indicate?

A legion was the largest unit of the Roman army. At full strength it had 6,000 soldiers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there were 6,000 demons in the man. It could mean that there were a great many.

Why did the demons beg Jesus not to send them into the abyss?

They already know that they will be judged and punished at God’s appointed time (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:9-14). Yet they must have had some notion that it was not yet the appointed time for the final judgment to take place.

Why did Jesus command the demons to enter the pigs?

Demons cannot rest unless they are able to destroy. They choose to destroy in lesser ways if they are not allowed to do it in greater ways. So, if they are not allowed to ruin the souls or the bodies of men, rather than doing no evil, they sought to do harm to irrational creatures – the pigs, the property of men. This illustrates the malice and wickedness of these evil spirits. The pigs’ fate in the Sea prefigures and pictures the final fate of demons, when God defeats Satan and throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Jesus accomplished the defeat of Satan and demons through His crucifixion and resurrection (John 12:31, Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14-15).

Why did Jesus not allow the man to join Him?

Jesus wanted the restored man to be a witness of God’s power in his own community and region. Note in Mark 5:19-20 that “how much the Lord has done” and “how much Jesus has done” parallel one another. Hence, Jesus IS the Lord.

Why were the people afraid of Jesus?

Fear and reverence are appropriate emotions whenever we encounter Jesus. With believers, it’s the kind of fear and reverence that actually serves to draw them closer to Him. But the fear these people experienced is a negative kind of fear – the kind of fear that was, perhaps, superstitious of Jesus’ mysterious power. It could have been the fear of further loss of their property. Their fear did not draw them to Jesus.

Why did the people ask Jesus to leave?

They didn’t know what to make of Jesus. Is He an exorcist or a magician? Perhaps they were afraid He would exercise His power and the result would be their ruin and destruction. The people did not fear and reverence Jesus as the Lord. They dreaded Him, as someone who possessed power that might end up causing them harm. Some scholars have suggested that the local people may have been very upset at the loss of this large herd of pigs or perhaps they were afraid that they would suffer other and greater losses than the loss of the pigs.

Note: These FAQs have been answered with help from the ESV Study Bible, Systematic Theology by John Frame, Christian Theology by Millard Erickson, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.