After Jesus had established his authority over the destructive physical environment in the eyes of his closest followers by calming the storm and lake. Now he would demonstrate his authority over the destructive powers of the spiritual environment around them. This incident Jesus masters, is called by many of us, an exorcism. The strength and courage Jesus shows is remarkable, considering the fact that he is outside Israel in unfamiliar territory. As far as the four gospels record, Jesus only ventures outside of Israel during his ministry twice, but when he does, he wastes no time manifesting the power of God against the devils most destructive works. When we leave our comfort zone, how aware are we that our battle is against the spiritual forces of evil? See Ephesians 6:12
v7, Though it seems odd for a demon to invoke God’s name (“I implore you by God”) in his demands of Jesus, the parallel story in Mat. 8:29 suggests the reason: “Why have you come to torment us before the time?” There was an appointed time in which demons would face their judgment, and they seem to have viewed the arrival of Jesus on the scene as an illegitimate change in God’s plan regarding the time when their sentence would be executed. It is a pity that worldly people do not see “an appointed time” God has proclaimed and promised to come, but the demons do. Do you?
The most peculiar fact about this exorcism is the torturous way Jesus deals with the unclean spirits (Legion is a military term which Romans used to describe thousands of soldiers). Jesus had already exorcized unclean spirits many times before this encounter, but this one shows how he treats the real culprits. By contrast, he emphasizes what cost the healed man should pay, which is to preach the mercy shown to him in his hometown. Do we consider sharing our faith and story of conversion, a duty that is commanded of us, or a privilege? See Romans 1:16.
Luke tells us about a characteristic of unclean spirits; they do not like water, Luke 11:24. So why would Jesus permit a huge number of unclean spirits to go into pigs, if he knew they would be forced to run into a lake and drown? Because they asked for it and deserved to wander in discontent. The price of many pigs’ pain and the loss of the farmer’s income was worth the lesson in punishing the unclean spirits. How the public reacted to the healed man’s liberty and salvation was entirely up to the people of Decapolis, afterall, they could rely on the well known fact of the healed man’s testimony to help them gain the community’s help in rebuilding the pig farm. This could be one reason Jesus insisted on saying “no” to the healed man’s request to follow Jesus into Israel. The healed man would of course bless others with the work of God’s message for salvation, and also make the community aware of the pig farmer’s need for help. The people of the Decapolis are an interesting community; The Decapolis refers to a group of towns (originally consisting of ten; the Greek name literally means “ten towns”). Their unity came from their Greek culture and stories, which set them apart from surrounding areas. So it was possible for news to travel faster amongst them, than most other towns. There is no mention of the people being angry at the loss of the pig herd, but rather the community feared Jesus in the same way the disciples feared Jesus when he stilled the storm & lake, Mk. 4:41. Christians today need this kind of fear of God, it would certainly help us in praising Him as we should and promote the spread of his good news.
v20, Mark ends the story with a subtle but significant point. The man could not separate what God had done, from the one (JESUS) through whom God had done it. This man was called to be a witness of God’s goodness through Jesus at home!