Having safely crossed the stormy Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shores at the “region of the Gerasenes” (Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26). Matthew’s Gospel seems to contradict the other two Synoptics by reporting that Jesus arrived at “the region of the Gadarenes” (Matthew 8:28). Is there a contradiction? Josephus, the first century historian, helpfully answers our concern. Gadara, he says, was a city five miles southeast of Galilee with control over territory extending to the border of the lake, including the little village of Gerasa on the eastern shore of Galilee. There is no contradiction. The boat docked near the village of Gerasa which was governed by the people of Gadara.
Who were the Gerasenes and the Gadarene? That they were pig herders tells us that they were not Jews. The Levitical law expressly forbade eating pork (Leviticus 11:7, Deuteronomy 14:8). The region that Jesus visited on the eastern side of Galilee was primarily Gentile. Jesus was on a foreign mission trip.
Just as the bow of their little boat slid up the sandy beech, abruptly, immediately, “a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him” (Mark 5:2). Matthew recalls that there were “two demon-possessed men” (Matthew 8:28) while Mark and Luke record the one. Maybe Mark and Luke remembered the once-demon-possessed Gentile miraculously transformed to become a faithful follower of Jesus and a missionary to the Decapolis.
The goal of the devil and his demonic underlings is to destroy (John 10:10) the person created in the image of God. The Gadarene’s demonization is evident in his abhorrent behavior, social isolation, and self-destructive tendencies. “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 5:3-5).
Consider the amazing transformation, wrought by Jesus’ miraculous mercies …
The Gadarene had been “bound with shackles and chains” (Mark 5:4). Jesus promised, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, NKJV).
He had been living in the “tombs” (Mark 5:5), sleeping with dead men’s bones. Trusting in Jesus, the man was granted life, abundant and eternal!
Every night, the citizens living nearby had heard the moaning as “he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones”(Mark 5:5). I suspect that the Gadarene whistled and sang in worshipful praise as he walked the dusty road toward his boyhood home in the Decapolis.
When we last see the Gadarene, he is fully clothed, “dressed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15), sitting at the feet of Jesus. Once naked, he was clothed, wrapped in the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
Once aimless, useless, lost and lonely, the man was warmly welcomed into the family of God and commissioned as a missionary and minister. Jesus saved him and gave him dignity and purpose.
While Satan seeks to degrade, defeat, and destroy, Jesus’ goal is to graciously provide an abundance of life, joy, and peace (John 10:10). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In an act of extreme graciousness, Jesus set the Gadarene Demoniac free! Jesus changes everything!