Lessons from the casting out of legion


Robert Oliver

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the account of Jesus going to the country of the Gadarenes and casting out the unclean spirit named “Legion”. Most remember a bit of this account, because it is the one where the evil spirit requested to enter into a herd of swine rather than to be sent away. Jesus allowed it and then the herd of swine ran down a steep place into the sea and were drowned. Usually, other than the herd of swine, we tend to focus on the confrontation between Jesus and the unclean spirit. Yet, there is another confrontation that seems to be the more important for us to look at. It is that of Jesus and the man that had the unclean spirit. Let’s consider the spiritual application of this confrontation. We will use Mark’s account for our study.

Though we know the name of the unclean spirit, “Legion”, we do not know the name of the man with the unclean spirit. In this way he better serves as our example, for he represents any man, for we are all in need of that which this man received. He had an unclean spirit (Mark 5:2). Having an unclean spirit can be likened to being unclean by way of sin. Often, both in the Old Testament and the New, those who are guilty of sin are referred to as being unclean. James speaks of the need to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). In the letter to Sardis, the Lord said that they had “…a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments…” (Rev. 3:4). With this view in mind, we all find ourselves coming out of the tombs having an unclean spirit, for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The tombs themselves were considered to be unclean, thus the need to come out of them. It is the world that we must come out of in order to escape the uncleanness of sin (I John 2:15-16). Paul wrote, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6:17).

The next really important aspect of this confrontation can be seen in the phrase, “…and no man could bind him” (Mark 5:3). It had been tried, but only to see the man rip off the bindings (Mark 5:4). Here is where the Lord’s way differs from man’s way and the Lord’s way is successful. The Lord did not seek to bind the man. The Lord sought to free the man. In fact, the man was already bound by the unclean spirit and was in need of being set free. In like manner, he who is living in sin is already bound. That person is in the bondage of sin. The apostle Paul stated, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16). Paul speaks of being, “…delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Jesus said “to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:31-34).

Jesus freed this man from the bondage of the unclean spirit (Mark 5:8, 13). And, Jesus is the means by which one can be freed from the bondage of sin. He told His apostles, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He also told them, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). Belief in and obedience to Jesus Christ and His gospel is the means by which one is made free from the bondage of sin. Paul said that the Romans had been “…the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The writer of the book of Hebrews stated, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). Recall the earlier mentioned verse, “…delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Consider one last lesson from this confrontation between Jesus and the one from whom Legion was cast. When it was done, Jesus told him to, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19). The cleansed man was sent out to publish the blessings and salvation that can be found in Christ Jesus and no where else. When Paul told the Romans that they had been freed from the old law and were married to Christ, he continued, “that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). It is the responsibility of every child of God to publish abroad the blessed freedom from the bondage of sin that can be obtained and enjoyed by any willing to bow down to the Lord Jesus Christ in love and obedience.

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