Connections 04.17.2016: Coming and Going


Luke 8:26-36

There’s a lot of coming and going in this story.

Jesus comes by boat to the land of the Gerasenes. As soon as he steps ashore, a demon-afflicted man comes to him.

Jesus commands the demons to come out of the man. They say that, if it’s all the same to Jesus, they’d just as soon not go back to the abyss from which they came.

So Jesus lets the demons go into a herd of pigs. When they do, the pigs go into the lake, which, when you stop and think about it, is sort of like an abyss, so the joke was on the demons, but not on the pigs.

The keepers of the pigs go off to tell what happened. As a result, people come from all over to see for themselves.

The people are freaked out by what’s happened, so they ask Jesus to go away, lest more things that freak them out confront them. The formerly demon-afflicted man, now in his right mind, asks to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go back home and stay there.

And so it was that, from then on, just when it seemed like the people of that community had put Jesus out of their minds as they had put him out of their neighborhood, they’d see that guy again, and he’d remind them by his presence and by his words that Jesus had been there and that he’d left some of his grace, love, and power behind.

And they lived uneasily ever after.

Perhaps we who have been made whole by Jesus are called to a similar ministry of irritation.

They can send Jesus away if they want to, but they’re stuck with us.

How do our words and actions remind those around us of what it means to come to Jesus?


1. How do we bear accurate witness to the grace, love, and power of Jesus?
2. Why do you think the healed man wanted to go with Jesus? Why do you think Jesus wanted him to remain in his home territory?
3. Why might the people have wanted Jesus to go away from them? Why do people today want Jesus to stay away from them?
4. In what ways are people today afflicted by evil? In what ways do they spend life among the tombs?
5. Why do you think seeing the demon-afflicted man “clothed and in his right mind” caused the people of the area to be afraid? How can such a good thing cause fear?

Reference Shelf

Inside Jokes

Everyone in the ancient world understood that Jews do not eat pork. So the desire of unclean spirits for the herd of swine would have made sense to Luke’s readers—unclean spirits would naturally choose an unclean animal if they get thrown out of a human. The crazed behavior of the porkers is probably meant to convey to the reader the true sense of the burden this anonymous man had been carrying: look what happened to all those pigs—no wonder he ran around naked in the graveyard!

There is also the overtone in this story that the name “Legion” created. What person in ancient times hearing this story would not have made the connection to the Roman legions who possessed Palestine, and much of the rest of the Mediterranean world, often making life as miserable for the general public as these demons did for their victim? That the soldiers of the legions used their power to extort money from the general public was a fact of life (3:14). That they also were from time to time the sharp end of Rome’s rule, rounding up enemies of Rome and crucifying them or destroying villages deemed dangerous to Rome, was no secret either. So the idea of the legion cowering in fright before Jesus, then dismissed into pigs that drown themselves, must have been a pleasant one for many of Luke’s readers.

Richard B. Vinson, Luke, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008) 263-64.

The Gospel and the Economy

When the swine are destroyed by drowning, the herdsmen go into the city and tell what had happened. When the people come and find not only the man well but also the herd gone, they ask Jesus to depart from them (8:37; note 9:5, the rejection of the Twelve). Although the theme that Jesus’ rejection is tied to economic motives is not explicitly present in the use of the story by Matthew and Mark, the larger context of Luke-Acts makes it certain this was an intent of the evangelist.

. . . The story in Acts that corresponds most closely to Luke 8:26-39 is found at 16:16ff. Here Paul casts out a spirit of divination from a slave girl who had “brought her owners much gain by soothsaying” (16:16). The author tells us in v. 19 that “when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers.” The result was a beating (v. 22), imprisonment (v. 23), and ultimately a request that they leave the city (v. 39). The language of the request to leave is the same as in Luke 8:37 (Acts 16:39 . . .). Given the theme of the rejection of Jesus and his gospel because of economic motivations found elsewhere in Luke-Acts, and given the Lukan tendency to foreshadow in the gospel what is treated explicitly in Acts, it is virtually impossible to read 8:26-39 without hearing the evangelist saying the troubles experienced by Christian missionaries because of the economic vested interests threatened by their ministry were already a part of Jesus’ career. The one who has universal power is also the one whose rejection is sometimes tied to the threat he poses to economic vested interests. This is both warning and consolation to his followers.

Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel, rev. ed. (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2002) 102-03.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.


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