The Gadarenes :: By Grant Phillips

Matthew (Matthew 8:28-34), Mark (Mark 5:1-21) and Luke (Luke 8:26-40) recorded the occasion when Jesus cast out demons in a place called Gadara (or Gerasa). Gadara was located on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and visited these folks. When He arrived, Matthew tells us of two men who were possessed with demons and had been living in the tombs. Mark and Luke speak of only one of the men, perhaps because he was possessed by the greater number of demons and was more violent.

Concentrating on the one demon possessed man mentioned in Mark and Luke; we notice that the demons were called “Legion.” The Scripture says they were called Legion because they were many. During the time of Augustus, a legion was 6,826 men (6,100 foot soldiers and 726 horsemen). Was this one man possessed by 6,826 demons? I don’t know, but since they were called Legion, perhaps he was.

The demons begged Jesus to not send them to the abyss, but instead allow them to enter the herd of swine nearby. According to Mark there were about 2,000 swine in the herd. Now that’s a lot of bacon! Jesus granted their request and when they entered the herd of swine, the herd ran down the steep slopes, into the sea and was drowned. Yep, must have been a lot of demons. No wonder the demon possessed man was so strong and uncontrollable.

Obviously, there were few to no Jews in Gadara. Think about it. The Israelites would have nothing to do with swine. (Come to think of it, maybe this is where the prodigal son ventured to, but that’s for another time.)

The slaves responsible for tending the swine were so scared they fled like mice on a sinking ship and told everyone they saw what happened. Now I’m sure the owners of the swine were not happy campers. They had just lost a lot of money. The townspeople and those in the country were not delighted to hear this either. Why? Their food supply had just taken a hit. The meat department at the local grocery was nearly depleted. So they all go out for a first-hand investigation.

They get there and notice that this wild, beast of a man is clothed and in his right mind. They also notice that the herd of about 2,000 swine is gone. They look over to the sea, and there they are, dead swine floating here and there in the whitecaps.

Now I’m ready to get to the point. Two contrasts immediately come to mind when reading the closing words of our Lord’s visit to Gadara.

In Mark five we see two verses, back to back, that really tell a story. In verse seventeen we read these words from the Gadarenes that were said to Jesus, and then in verse eighteen we read what the formerly demon possessed man said to Jesus.

“Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.”

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.” (Mark 5:17-18)

What a contrast. The group wanted Him gone from their presence. The one man freed from the demons wanted to go with Him.

Jesus told this one man to go instead to his own people in the cities in that area and tell them how much Jesus had done for him. He did just that, and the people were amazed.

“Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5:19-20)

Then Jesus left, and crossed back over the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

Think of the times Jesus has come to visit us. What did we say, “Leave me” or “Take me with You?” The most damning sight for any person would be seeing only Jesus’ back as He walks away once we have rejected His being in our presence. The wealthy self-righteous swine owners wanted to be rid of Him, but the embarrassment of Gadara wanted to stay with Him.

Jesus proved the point over and over that “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) What did He mean by these words? He is simply saying that the self-righteous will not listen, but the outcasts long to hear.

Think of the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14.

Matthew Henry comments, “too many prefer their pigs above their Savior, and so come short of Christ, and salvation through him.”

Do we prefer swine over the Savior? Have we begged Him to leave us as the Gadarenes did? No sadder words could be spoken than, “He left.” Are we too good for God? The man who knows he is a sinner yearns to hear the Words of Jesus and have His presence in his life. He will gladly go and share all that Jesus has done for him and tell of His great mercy.

If we haven’t done so as yet, we urgently need to decide today, right now, are we going to beg Jesus to leave us, or are we going to ask to go with Him?

The formerly demon possessed man got it right. The Gadarenes got it wrong. Thank goodness for the other folks in that area that Jesus told him to go back to his people and tell them what great things the Lord has done for him and of His great mercy. Many were amazed, and I’m confident some listened and were saved.

So which is it going to be, “Depart from me Jesus” or “Take me with you Jesus?”

Grant Phillips


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