Hollywood producers and moviegoers share a dark fascination with the subject of demons and possession. Horror and suspense films about fallen angels tap into one of humanity’s most harrowing fears: that the presence of evil in this world is real and dangerous. Today’s passage acknowledges that this is true, but it also shows that Jesus has sovereign authority over all demons and spirits.
The action described in Luke 8 conveys a cinematic sense of terror. The poor possessed man was forced by multiple demons to live homeless and naked, residing in tombs, an absolutely tortured existence. But when Jesus arrived on the scene, it was the demons who were in terror. Even as Luke describes the chains that were too feeble to restrict the power of the demons over the possessed man, those same demons cried out in abject fear of being bound by the power of the Lord.
The interchange reveals two startling theological truths. First, the demons recognized that Jesus had the authority to cast them into the Abyss, which is referenced in Revelation 9 as well as the chapters that follow as a place where the Beast and his dark forces are held in between their scourges upon the earth in the end times (cf. Rev. 20:3). It’s unclear exactly why Jesus agreed to their request to be cast into pigs, but it may not have been the appointed time for Jesus to punish them in this way.
Second, the fact of Jesus’ authority over the demons was certainly established, much to the terror of the watching crowd and the delighted relief of the man who had been freed from spiritual enslavement. In ironic contrast to the request of the demons, the man’s pleas to join Jesus on His journey were declined (v. 38). Jesus wanted him to stay and spread the word of his freedom to everyone who had witnessed his torment. Jesus had banished the cries of the demons; now He wanted the man to be a voice of praise and testimony in that place.