Luke 8:26-39

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

The story of the Gerasene demoniac is thoroughly shaped by Jewish norms. This becomes apparent in the description of Gerasa as opposite Galilee. The implication is that Gerasa is on the other side and implies that the Gerasenes are the enemy. It is the place of demons and uncleanness. It is a place where pigs need to rush down the hill and be drowned in the sea. This is clearly not a Gentile norm of victory. This is a Jewish victory over "uncleanness" in the world. Another sign of the Jewishness of this story is the name of the demon, "legion." The multitude of evil spirits are named as the major division of the oppressing Roman army, the legion. These are appeals to ancient Jewish norms in the story.

The telling of this story is an adventure for a storyteller. It begins with the setting of the scene: "They arrived to the country of the Gerasenes, opposite Galilee. And as he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him." What an intriguing intro! Then there is an explanation of the man with demons: for a long time he had worn no clothes and he did not live in a house but he lived in the tombs, in the cemeteries. The naked man literally lived among the dead.

When he saw Jesus he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice. This is Luke's description of how you are to tell the story. It's the loudest you can be, as loud as you can make it. Next there is an explanation to the audience by the storyteller: "Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man and many times it had seized him. He was kept under guard bound with chains and shackles but he'd break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wild." This is all inside information from the storyteller to the audience and in contrast to the demoniacs cry should be told quietly, with a big contrast in volume, and in a tone of the sinister.

Jesus asks his name. If you know the name of a demon, you can dominate it. This element of the story reflects ancient myths in regard to evil spirits. But the name of the powers of evil in the story is not mythological at all. The demon's name is the name of the legions of Rome, which is code for Jewish listeners who endured Roman domination and oppression. The legion is named by the powers of evil, "for many demons had entered him." Once more, the storyteller is offering an inside explanation to the audience.

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