The scene described in Mark 5 has the makings of a pretty effective little horror story:
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.It has many of the classic elements. It was apparently nighttime. There had been a terrible storm. Graveyards — and demons. Lots and lots of demons.
2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 8 For he was saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"
9 And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
He replied, "My name is Legion, for we are many." 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them."
13 So he gave them permission.
And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea. 14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened.
15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs.
17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.
18 As he was getting into the boat....
On most occasions Jesus cast the demons out with a word (Matthew 8:16). Here, more of a process is involved. The demon tells Jesus that there is a "legion" of them in the man. We stagger at the thought that there could have actually been six thousand demons in one man. It could have been demonic bravado — boastful, if pointless, exaggeration.
Yet they then inhabited and enfrenzied a herd of two thousand pigs. We simply must admit that there is more that we do not know about demons, than what we do know.
The really important thing to know about demons, though, is that they are utterly subject to Jesus' word. He who had stilled the elemental storm at sea with a word, could do the same to the spiritual storm inside the man. The demons know they have no choice but to go where He sends them. As many as six thousand demons versus one Jesus — and they're hopelessly outmatched. They wait, quavering to see what He will do to them, knowing they are bound to His word.
So they implore Him to send them into the herd of pigs. Particularly, the spokesman "begged [Jesus] earnestly not to send them out of the country."
Did that ever strike you? "Pigs, fine, whatever. Just please let us hang around these parts." Something about that area, that region, appealed to them, felt like home to them.
Now comes the great irony, and probably the key to the demons' petition. They are cast out into the pigs, the pigs drown, the demoniac is restored to his right mind, the townspeople come and see this all....
And what is their reaction? They all know about this notoriously insane, demonized man. His feats of insane strength were the stuff of local legend. Yet here he sits, calm, sane, sober. And Jesus is responsible.
They ask Jesus to leave.
I never get over that, it just so amazes me. "Wow, that's really great, with the, heh-heh, the demons, and the... the... all that — so, could you, like, go? Please? Now?"
That's their priority-system. A man saved — but that herd of pigs, all gone. All that profit, gone. You did this? You go.
So I wonder: was that area just a really great place to be a demon? These people, all obsessed with order and propriety, and profit; not so concerned about this wasted wretch of a man... "Mmm-mm! Smells like Hell to me!" Was that it?
But I haven't even gotten to the scariest part of this little horror yarn yet.
The scariest part isn't the storm, or the thought of graves at night, or the raging, raving demoniac. The scariest part isn't the image of thousands of vicious, heartless, ravening demons, holding the soul of a helpless man captive.
No, this is the scariest part.
They ask Jesus to leave —
And He does.