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God’s Word for You

Luke 8:30-33 the demons and the pigs

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 11, 2018

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.

I sure that Jesus asked this question for the benefit of his disciples who were there watching. He wanted them to know what they could not see: that the man was not possessed by one demon, but by many; that the dangers of the unseen are many more than we might suspect.

How many more? A Roman legion was thousands of soldiers, as many as six or seven thousand. But that doesn’t mean we should assign a precise number to this group. They were many, and their number perhaps really did run into the thousands. This might speak to the physical and mental resources of this poor man. Paul says: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Does that perhaps tell us that this was a man who would be able to recover from such a terrible ordeal, once the demons were driven away and he was himself once again? I think it does. And Jesus also made certain that the man was not left “empty,” something he warned his disciples about later on: “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).

It became fashionable in the 20th century for expositors to assume that Jesus was using psychology on this man by trying to draw his “normal” personality back to the surface by asking his name. This line of thought assumes that demon possession is nothing more than a kind of schizophrenia or some other personality disorder. It also assumes that Jesus Christ would have needed to use a 20th century practice rather than his divine power. This is quaint, but it falls into the same line of thought that would have Jesus using leeches to cure leprosy or electro-shock therapy to cure blindness. Jesus asked the man’s name to illustrate the number of demons—real, condemned demons—within him.

31 And they begged him again and again not to order them to go into the Abyss.

Like the account of the Rich Man and Poor Lazarus (Luke 16), we learn some remarkable things about hell in this passage; things which might otherwise be gained by a great deal of thought and wisdom, but which are stated simply and clearly for us. The demons don’t like hell. They’re terrified of the punishment that awaits them there. This is a reminder that “the Abyss” is their prison, not their kingdom. The devil isn’t the boss of heaven or the warden and the demons are not guards or masters of torture. The devil will be the prisoner in the worst cell in the deepest cell block.

The demons in the man begged Jesus not to send them away yet. They knew (know) that they will spend eternity there, but they were hoping for a few more years in the created world, which is so very much better than being in hell. “Don’t damn us!” But they were already damned; already sentenced. They begged Jesus to do what had been done already all the way back between Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 when they fell and were condemned. Jesus hardly bothers with the demons. His goal is to free the man from their influence, not to grant the irrational and pitiful requests of monsters who are afraid of what lies beyond the dark.

32 A good sized herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he let them.  33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

Why would the demons want to inhabit these hogs? Both pigs and demons are unclean things, so they had that in common. Do demons confine themselves to a given location sometimes? Does Satan’s daunting influence drive them into deserted places? Did these demons wish to stay in this area? Who can say? Anything we might speculate about is only going to be speculation, and so nothing can be built on these questions or on any opinions here. The devil and his demons are often illogical and irrational. They see opportunities to tempt men and women, and that’s their whole world of influence. As long as we have Christ, we don’t need to dabble in the babble of the devil’s rabble.

Luke doesn’t tell us every detail, but we have enough. The demons had entered this man willingly, but now they couldn’t leave him without the Lord’s permission. In their terror of the Almighty Judge, they made the mad request to be permitted to possess the hogs that were nearby. It was a big herd. The Greek phrase, agélē hikanōn, “a good/worthy herd,” suggests that this was a group of hogs that their owners were proud of. Mark says that there were about two thousand of them. There they were, fourteen gross of big, healthy hogs, grazing on the hillside. Jesus gave his permission, and all at once the hogs went mad. They were filled with the demons that had a moment before filled a person. Terrified, the whole herd rushed downhill, down the steep bank, into the Sea of Galilee, and were drowned. The demons were no better off than before, but they brought death and misery wherever they went.

This fact—that the demons brought death—reminds us that the devil and his hoards are a real danger for the people we love. We share the gospel with the world so that the word of Christ can do its saving work and rescue people from the terrors that frighten even the demons. As long as there are people in the world who don’t know Jesus, we have work to do. Let it begin with the people you meet today.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.