The “Three Billy Goats Gruff” had to cross the bridge to get to higher pasture, but under that bridge lived the ugliest, meanest, nastiest troll. I remember the troll when I read the account of the Gadarene Demoniac.
After a stormy trip across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shores near Gadara. “As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore—not even with a chain- because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:2-5). Matthew adds that there were actually “two demon-possessed men ... They were so violent that no one could pass that way” (Matthew 8:28). Luke says, “For a long time he had worn no clothes and did not stay in a house but in the tombs” (Luke 8:27).
Can you imagine the troll? Naked and dirty, bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. With notorious, super-human strength, he terrorized those that passed by. His family and friends had tried to help. They tried to coax him and even to subdue him, hoping to offer the Gadarene the help he obviously needed. But, to no avail. He broke the restraints and refused any assistance.
“When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before him, and said in a loud voice, ‘What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torment me!’ ” (Luke 8:28). I doubt that the man had ever seen Jesus. He wouldn’t have known Him from the man on the moon. But the demonic spirits that had taken up residence in the man’s life, they knew Jesus. They recognized Jesus right away.
Jesus commanded, “‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit! What is your name?’ he asked him. ‘My name is Legion,’ he answered him, ‘because we are many’ ” (Mark 5:8-9). A Roman legion was a unit of six thousand soldiers. Could there have been six thousand satanic spirits residing in the man? Regardless, Jesus simply said “go” (Matthew 8:32), and the spirits made a speedy exit. (Read the whole story in Mark 5:1-20 to learn about the demon-possessed pigs... no kidding.)
The Gadarene was free. Evil had once captivated his thoughts, plagued him, hounded him, controlled him. Jesus removed those deadly chains, the heavy burden, the sadness, the hatred, the weariness, the fear. Jesus cast out the evil spirits, and for the first time in years, the man was free.
As the story comes to a close, in the final scene, the Gadarene “begged (Jesus) earnestly to be with him. But (Jesus) sent him away and said, ‘Go back to your home, and tell all that God has done for you.’ And off he went, proclaiming ... how much Jesus had done for him” (Luke 8:38-39). The end... or rather, the new beginning.
Jesus came “to bring good news to the poor. He (came) to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor... to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:1–3).
That’s my story too. Jesus set me free.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.