As we discussed yesterday, the Gospels have a lot more instances of demonic possession than we see later in the N.T. I also should've pointed out that this phenomenon--with the possible exception of Saul--is never recorded in the O.T. either. And while it does occur today (mostly outside western culture), we don’t see it nearly as often as when our Lord walked the earth.
But in the Gospels they seem pretty frequent. And although we’re not likely to see one, I think those instances can give us insight into what we need to know regarding the spiritual realm.
First, we need to know that there’s no real spiritual battle, at least not between our Lord and the Enemy. If you get your theology from movies, then you might get the impression that there’s a war going on between equal and opposite forces. There’s not. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Satan is none of those things. We can see that in the “clash” described in today’s passage. I’m sure that demons are a lot more powerful than I am (in my own strength), but they’re positively cowering before Jesus of Nazareth. If you or I passed Jesus in the street while he was on earth, we probably wouldn’t give him a second glance. We'd just see a man, bearing the marks of a blue-collar worker (callused hands, well-muscled, probably not exactly smelling like a Bed Bath and Beyond, etc.).
But that’s not what the demons saw. They saw the Son of God, the One who created them and whose wrath they feared more than anything else in the entire universe. Seeing past the veil of humanity, they knew exactly who Jesus was. His very presence undoubtedly burned them like a magnifying glass on an ant on a summer day. They assumed that he was there to “torture” them in judgment, and they knew that the time for said judgment was coming. There’s no arrogance on display here, just abject begging. Quite frankly, maybe I should've put the vs. in the title in scare quotes.
Second, this narrative displays the nature and work of the Enemy’s servants. The Lord had commanded them to come out of the man, and they knew they had no choice but to obey. No longer could they torment this poor man and use him as their puppet. So what did they do? They begged Jesus to send them out of the man and into a herd of pigs. As soon as they entered the swine, the demons drove them over a cliff to their death.
My friend, the Enemy and his cohorts hate God and everything about him. That includes his creation. If they can’t overthrow him in Heaven, then they’ll do their best to destroy men (made in God’s image). If they can’t destroy men, then they’ll destroy pigs. Whatever freedom the Lord Almighty gives them, they use it to destroy whatever they can.
Finally, this story reminds us that there’s no neutral ground. Why did the townspeople ask Jesus to leave? Some of it might've been the financial loss from the pigs, but the Scriptures tell us they were "afraid," probably of such spiritual power on display in front of them. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter. For so long they'd lived in fear because of this crazy man who lived in the tombs on the outskirts of town. They didn’t like the demoniac threatening them and their children, but they didn’t like Jesus staying too close either. So they turned out of town the only One who could save them, not just from the physical danger of a possessed man but from an eternity in darkness.
Thankfully, the Lord in his mercy didn’t leave himself without a witness to these ungrateful fools. The ex-demoniac begged to leave with Christ, but the Lord Jesus had a special job for him. Jesus himself wouldn’t be welcome in the town, but the redeemed man could be. He could tell others—starting with his family and working outwards—how the Savior had mercy on him and what he'd done for him.
So how’s about you? If you’re saved, then the Lord rescued you from the Enemy’s power no less than the man from the tombs. He’s brought peace and showered you with love, mercy and grace. Have you told anyone about it?
Lord Jesus, I’ll be your witness. I’ll be your ambassador. I’ll be your representative. I’ll tell everyone you send me to. By your power and grace.