WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
By John Mike Pitts
Key Verse 5:9
“Then he asked him,’ What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’”
In the last passage, Jesus brought his disciples through a furious storm in order to train them. He showed them that he is able to calm the raging sea. He revealed to them that he is God who can calm the raging storms in our own life and we need not fear since Jesus is in the boat along with us. May God help us to have faith like this. Now, suddenly as they left the boat they met up with a man who had a storm pounding in his own life. He was a demon possessed man whose heart was invaded and taken control of by evil spirits. No one could help him. All attempts were futile. He lived among the tombs in misery without any hope of ever being cured; only waiting for that fateful day that he would die. But when Jesus came, he could not overlook this tormented soul, rather Jesus visited him and asked him, “What is your name?” Jesus opened the door for him to look at himself and confess his life problem, until he could become a normal human being again created in the image of God. This change in his inner man gave him a new desire in his heart, “Lord, I want to follow you.” Jesus helped him to begin a new life in servant ship to Jesus and to the gospel. This is a beautiful story of how God can change a soul rejected by the world into a most useful man in whom all of heaven rejoiced. May God help us to have the shepherd heart of Jesus and be used in the restoration of one tormented soul, that they to can tell the world what Jesus has done for them.
Let’s Read verse 1. “They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.” We can picture Jesus and his disciples leaving the crowd and anticipating a time of rest. But things quickly changed when they encountered a storm which they had to battle with until they reached the shore on the other side. After reeling from this fearful event in which Jesus calmed the storm, they had to overcome the emotional trauma. They arrived after midnight, perhaps in the early hours of the morning. They were mentally and physically exhausted, possibly at there wits end. But without warning, once again, they were faced with something unusual. As soon as they landed on shore they heard a strange loud cry. It was like a wild animal, but even more gut wrenching. It was the sound of torment directed towards them like lightning bolts to their ears. Now wide awake, they saw something straddling out of the graveyard. A wild undressed man approached shouting at the top of his lungs, seething with every scream. When the disciples saw him, they knew that their anticipated time of rest was gone.
Who was this mad man? Read verses 2-5. “When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain; for he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” The man had lived in a very lonely place away from all of his friends and society. He had lived among the tombs where he thought he could escape his torment amidst the dead. He is described as previously being bound, a man who once had been around people who tried to help him even in his extreme restlessness. At one time he was just an angry boy. He wanted his freedom to do what he wanted to do, not obeying anybody’s rules. As he grew his mantra was, “This is my life and I am going to do what I want to do!” His sinful desires began to rage and he said “yes” to every one of them, opening the door for demons to join in these sinful events. Eventually it was not he who was in control but demons, until he had become a man who was unrestrained by conscience. He could not be controlled by the ones he once loved and who loved him. Society no longer had a place for him since his tendencies had become destructive. He had become a man bound with heavy chains but there was no chain he was not determined to break, and he did. He had become a man of unlimited human freedom but this freedom led him to the tombs. He had betrayed every last restraint of obedience to the laws of what is good and what is right planted in his heart from the beginning of his life. Now he could not be restrained, even if he really wanted to be. His soul was now a home for demons that tormented his heart, who made him do what is unnatural until all he could do is cry out! “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (5) This was not his own will for himself, nor was it God’s will. We don’t know exactly what choices he made which made him a man of rage, possessed by many evil spirits. Verses 3-5 give us an idea of what events led up to this point in his life.
Everyone wants a measure of independence in his or her life. But when independence becomes rebellion, rebellion lends itself to unnatural behavior and life becomes vulnerable, vulnerable even to evil spirits.
It seems normal, even healthy, for most teenagers to express their independent spirit, finding an identity of there own in this ever changing world. For the most part this pursuit goes on without limit but what one must not fail to realize is that many of these pursuits are simply an expression of rebellion. Not long ago perhaps 5 generations, a young person would not even consider dating without their parent’s permission. Their way of thinking was not, “I am trapped by all of these rules” or “You are just controlling me.” Rather there was a trust between elders and parents. It was normal, even responsible to cling to such honorable trusts. Of course there has always been sinfulness but not without restraints. It was not allowed to go out of control. Young people cherished there independence, but not at the cost of rebellion. They were independent in character, not giving up responsibilities and commitments. Therefore, their world was not as morally or spiritually depraved as is our world today. (In Russia, 3 young women were sentenced to two years in prison recently for their political punk songs against the government in the name of civil rights in a cathedral.” Surely this generation’s pursuit of personal independence and free expression are nothing but rebellion. When rebellion grows in the heart and festers, it can no longer distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Also it can no longer discern what is of God and what is of man and is only left miserable.
Some, who think they have reached the height of their personal independence, have actually achieved the depths of rebellion. And rebellion, like a legion of demons, has made them slaves of most unnatural behaviors. Every link they have broken off has been broken off at the cost of their humanity. Although they may seem to have achieved personal independence in truth they have lost part of their soul. It is natural to have friendships that last for a lifetime. But some in there pursuit of personal independence are robbed of friendship and now have no real friends at all. Even if they have a good friend they are ready to give him or her up in the pursuit of lofty dreams. It is unnatural to abandon a friend in the pursuit of one’s selfish interests. It is natural to fully live and enjoy ones childhood because it brief. It is time to experience the life of a child God has given each of us normally. But so many kids have traded in there childhood for adult experiences and thus stunt their normal growth. Normally one would respect their teacher for their outreach of guidance and nurturing kindness. But mostly a teacher is not respected and it is most unnatural to insult one’s own teacher. It tears down that which is virtuous. But in doing so, humanity is traded off leaving only unnatural rebellious behavior.
We must know that “rebellion” knows no master but is a slave to sin. So while our youth are seeking personal independence, they have no idea they are opening the way for rebellion to be born in there heart. While one may want independence from commitment and responsibilities in the guise of being liberated, it is nothing more than an individual rebellion. Rebellion is dangerous to a man. The demon possessed man broke every chain that bound him. He willed to be chained by nothing. I want to be free! But he had no idea the price he would have to pay. The invitation to rebellion seemed a matter of course with little cost to him. At first, a little rebellion was justified and little bearing on his heart. But soon, just as a little leaking water can cause much damage, his life slowly began to take a drastic turn. The scenes in his mind began to play out one day at a time revealing the heavy cost it would bear on his heart. His mother who loved him with all of her heart began to sob upon loosing her wayward son. Her tears once brought sorrow to his heart with a resolve to change in his waywardness and pursue that which would make her happy. But strangely, he did not seem to care anymore to see his mother cry. In fact, he would just snicker, wondering why she should care. His affections were gone. Once he had good friends he could talk to. He could go to them and reason out his thoughts, speaking heart to heart. But somehow one by one his friends began to drop out of his life. He did not want to loose them but in his unnatural behavior they were no longer able to relate to him or him with them. A wall separated them. He no longer nurtured relationships but caused them to diminish until no one wanted to be around him. He did not want to treat them badly but some friends he insulted, he avoided others until he was isolated in his strange behavior with no friends at all. Now he was all alone. He only had the dead people to talk to in the tombs. Strangely enough he felt more at home with them than even his family and friends. It was a high price to pay as his humanity slowly slipped away and was taken over by this controlling unnatural behavior. Now he was in the company of demons brought on by sin and rebellion. He was now besides himself and feeling as though his life was no longer his to lead, even out of control. He hated his life this way, helplessly sobbing over his meaningless condition. On a brief encounter with reality he realized who had become and tried to commit suicide by means of cutting himself. His life was no longer his to live. His life was in the hands of demons that made use of his rebellion to take hold of his life. His rebellion robbed him of everything in his life. It even robbed him of God. The demons who controlled him kept him as far away from God as possible. They are like today’s hypnotic media which possesses our minds and ambitions and reduces us to an electronic challenge on screen as of first importance. Others may speak, as did the mans friends, but there is too much noise to hear from ones heart. Demons kept him thinking so much about his condition, focusing on his misery so that he could neither think of God nor listen to the voice of God. But as long as there was a small piece of humanity left in this mass of demons that somehow longed for God, God was ready to help him. For this reason Jesus went out of his way to meet this man. And for this reason as soon as this man saw Jesus he could not but run to meet Jesus. It took tremendous effort and resolve. His demons resisted and wanted to run the other way. But in a determined effort to come to God he ran with all he had of his humanity and fell down at his knees before Jesus. He must have startled his demons such that they had no time to react and turn him around.
Read verses 6 and 7. “When he saw Jesus from a distance he ran and fell on his knees in front him. He shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the most high God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!’” His inner turmoil of soul is revealed in these verses. What little bit of humanity that was left in him knelt before Jesus, the author of life. But the Demons who had there tentacles far within the recesses of his life damaged his heart so much he believed that God wants nothing to do with a man like him. His perception is that God has no greater desire than to see this man tortured to death over and over again. Jesus though had no desire to see this man condemned. He had no desire to judge him but rather Jesus had nothing but love and compassion for the man. How strange it is that he thought Jesus came to torture him. But what is it that Jesus truly wanted to do for him? Jesus wanted to help him and deliver him from his agony of life. John 10:10 reads. “The thief comes to steal kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
So how did Jesus begin to help him? “Then Jesus asked him, ’What is your name?’ My name is Legion, ‘He replied’, for we are many.” (9) How is it that Jesus would first ask the man his name? Surely everyone knows there name and has a personality of there own. But during his many years of rebellion his heart had been filled with many things. Now his heart was filled with those things he lusted for and had desired and coveted. Without his knowing, his inner man and personality were being changed at the design of unclean spirits until he was no longer himself anymore. He no longer functioned as an individual but as a body driven by a conglomeration of demons. When that fateful day came, he realized that he was no longer who he used to be but owned by some intruding force. When Jesus saw him, he saw the conflict in his heart and graciously asked him, “What is your name?” Why ask his name? Because Jesus didn’t see him as a terrible sinner who deserved the agony he was going through. But Jesus saw him as a human being who had been taken advantage of by evil spirits who stole his soul in his time of weakness. So Jesus focused on his humanity and asked him as a man, “What is your name?” The question made him look at Jesus square in the eye, receiving the power and grace Jesus had to offer him, standing alone before the healing power of God.
When we look at verse 9, this man honestly confessed that he had given his heart and life over to a legion of demons. He spilled his heart out to Jesus in honest tear filled confession about this problem. At the moment of his confession the demons realized that their time was nearly over. Look at verses 10-13. They begged Jesus not to send them out of the area but into some pigs. At Jesus consent these demons entered about two-thousand pigs. They were so distressed at the sudden intrusion that they hurled themselves off of a cliff, plunging to their death in the water below. As soon as the demons left the man, he was restored to his right mind. He was sitting, fully dressed as a testimony to the healing power of God through Jesus. It was a most beautiful act of love, the restoration of one precious soul healed by his Creator. Some of Jesus best work is revealed in act of healing restoration in one soul. The towns people should be elated that Jesus performed such a miracle in there presence but rather they valued their pig industry more. They did not value this man’s changed life. They only saw him as worthless, just an unproductive scourge on society. But Jesus was ready to sacrifice anything for this one man, no matter who he may appear to be. To Jesus he was more precious than the world and tremendously more valuable than a herd of pigs. When it comes to one soul, Jesus does not care about monetary value or what society thinks about the condition of that soul. Jesus perspective is to do whatever it takes to love, serve and care for one lost soul until he or she are brought into their right mind and ready to serve Jesus. Strangely, the townspeople were not influenced by Jesus love for this man but their hearts were corrupted by there love for material things. Such a material corruption seems to be far worse than the demons that occupied this man’s heart since it was so socially acceptable and worse yet was the reason why they drove away Jesus.
Now the fact of Jesus miraculous work to change this man enabled him to be in his right mind. He looked peaceful. He was healed and restored to God. Look at verse 18. “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him.” Once he valued and pursued his personal independence more than the truth of God, as a result he was trapped and bound by evil spirits. He was now free; his heart was liberated and he could do anything he wanted. He could vacation in Jordan or sail on the open sea. He could celebrate; care free in his newly found life. But amazingly in his freedom he gravitated towards Jesus. He wanted to follow him just as his heart is designed to do from its Creator. Indeed, his request to follow Jesus is the deepest expression of healing. Therefore, Jesus showed him the way to follow him. “Go home to your family” Jesus said to him, “and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” (19) Jesus sent him to serve the gospel with a personal life testimony. He was sent to the very people he once terrorized and whom had considered him an outcast. This is where his testimony would indeed be most useful to move hearts to repentance and trust in Jesus. It was not an easy mission field since the people valued their pork industry more than life. But it was here that he could testify to the grace and mercy of God displayed in his very being. God’s grace to an unworthy man like himself glorified God. In going to the people he showed that his love for Jesus was far greater than his love for independence. “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis
How much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” May God use us to go and tell what the Lord has done for us wherever he may send us. May God use us to bring many to Jesus this Fall semester to meet Jesus and know his healing love for them as well. Read verse 9, “Then he asked him,’ What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’”