Today's Gospel reading from Luke 8:26-39 tells us of the healing of the Gergasene Demoniac. Jesus finds a man possessed by demons who had been driven out of the city, and was living homeless among the tombs.
There is a lot that can be said about this story, a lot that can be learned from it. The demon possessed man, living wild and frightened among the graves of the dead, represents us.
In verse Luke 8:30, Jesus asks the man "What is your name?" and he said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. This man's entire identity was ruled by the demons possessing him.
We may not recognise ourselves as being 'possessed' in such a dramatic fashion, but all of us are battling inner demons and passions. Pride, anger, envy, greed, lust - the list of our passions are endless, and like this man, our inner demons can erase who we are.
The demon-possessed man suggests to Christ, “Let us go to the flock of pigs.” Christ’s authority over demons and evil spirits meant that they needed His “permission” to come out of their host and enter the flock of pigs. Pigs were unclean animals under Jewish law, so they were a perfect symbol and home for the unclean spirits.
The Lord Jesus responded with one word: “Go.”
This moment shows us the true nature of Satan and his demons. When Satan entered the herd of pigs, the whole herd jumped off the cliff to the sea and died in the water.
Saint John Chrysostom explains, “Christ granted the demons their request in order to show that they would have done more grievous hurt to the men,” and Saint Peter of Damascus adds, “Satan cannot fight God directly, so he fights man who is in the ‘image of God’ and the demon does so, believing that in this way, it is taking revenge against the Lord.”
When we are possessed by our own inner demons, often they try to seduce us into a lie that life is better living under their control. Satan sells these torments as 'freedom' when, really, we become slaves to our passions and they make us miserable. God reveals the nature of Satan by allowing the demons to enter the pigs - Satan immediately kills the pigs. What he has in store for us is worse; a slow and deliberate self-destruction that will lead to eternal death.
St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “Acquire the Spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” In other words, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit and healed of their passions will live in such a way that their example will draw others to the Lord. They will exist as humans that are healed, fulfilled, and transformed. They will move from being “Legion” to being themselves in God’s image and likeness - a united version of themself.
A man who was literally living among the dead was brought back to life through Christ. Imagine what Christ can do for us.