Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
And he replied, “My name is Legion, because we are many.”– Mark 5:9
[See below for the full context of this encounter.]
How does life challenge us? Let me count the ways… It challenges us with wildfires that destroy creations of God and man. It challenges us with divisions political and social. It challenges us with difficulties financial and medical. It challenges us with distance social and physical. It challenges us with complexities in education and employment. There are so many ways that life is challenging these days!
But they are not too many for Jesus. When he is met by a legion of demons, even in the midst of their protestations, he commands control. He will not be undone by them. Whether this is a literal legion of 3,000 to 6,000 as the term is used of Romany armies, or a figurative host or multitude of demons, his challenge is formidable. This will not be an easy fight.
Or will it? It seems that Jesus is so totally in control that there is no fight at all. The demons are unsuccessful at preventing Jesus from extricating them from this poor man whom they had possessed. They were successful in having Jesus send them into the nearby herd of pigs, but only to be brought to their doom as they were hurled into the sea. A legion of demons – literal or figurative – is no match for the Son of God. He will have his way. They will not.
There is another time, however, when it seems they did have their way – at least the chief of demons did. Satan inspired Judas to betray Jesus. The chief priests and Sanhedrin conspired with Pilate at Satan’s instigation to arrest, torture, and kill Jesus. Even at his arrest, however, Jesus reminds us that he could call on 12 legions of angels to come to his aid (cf. Matthew 26:51-53). But he did not.
Jesus will exercise power and control over demons, sickness, disease and Satan’s minions. And even though it will appear that he was under the control of Satan, sin, and death at his arrest and crucifixion. Those appearances will be washed away on the third day after his death. He is ultimately in charge.
So what of our challenges? Are they too big for Jesus to handle? His mission to seek and save lost people – to help and redeem those who live in a fallen world and seek his help – will not be set aside by legions of demons or a multitude of life’s challenges. He is large and in charge for our good and to the glory of his grace.
So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.
6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”
9 Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” 10 Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.
11 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. 12 “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.”
13 So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
14 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. – Mark 5:1-17