In the Gospels, why do the townspeople ask Jesus to leave after he cast the demon Legion out and into the pigs?
In the aftermath of this miracle, the Gentile townspeople were so frightened by Jesus, they begged Him to leave the area as we see in all the Gospels. Let's look specifically at Luke in this case:
LUKE 8:32 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.
LUKE 8:33 And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
LUKE 8:34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country.
LUKE 8:35 The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened.
LUKE 8:36 Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well.
LUKE 8:37 And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned.
LUKE 8:38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying,
LUKE 8:39 “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
We must keep in mind that this is the first time these people have probably ever seen Jesus. While you have the herdsmen telling the people in the town about the miracle – they were most likely mentioning that they had witnessed hundreds of livestock plummet to their death off the side of a cliff. As one can imagine this would have been a traumatic event to watch, as all demonic activity is. That is why Luke mentions the terror that gripped the townspeople. Additionally, there was also a great loss of their livestock which caused both fear and potentially anger for the townsmen as this was their livelihood and means for survival. Jesus being the cause of this ruckus, was demanded to leave, and He respected their wishes and crossed back to the other side of the lake to Capernaum.
In the verses that follow the response given by the people of the town we encounter the response of the man whom Jesus healed, he was begging to go with Jesus. Jesus' response in verse 39 is quite intriguing saying “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” Following, we learn the man was obedient to Jesus' calling.
In summation, we see from Jesus' expelling of Legion and making the man whole two separate responses: We have the crowd’s response and the healed man’s response. Moreover, there will only be two responses as it comes to the Gospel of God being made known: belief or unbelief.
The healed man who was once deemed unclean and unhinged has now been transformed by Christ and desires to be with Him. He doesn’t just receive the healing and walk away, but rather there is a genuine desire to follow Christ where He goes. Furthermore, Jesus’ response to the man marks what is seen as the beginning of evangelism to the Gentiles. Jesus gives him a directive and tells him to “go and tell all and report to them what the Lord had done and how He showed him mercy.” Prior to this point, Jesus would tell people, to "speak these things to no one." In the same way we cannot go with Christ now, He asks us to be His witness in our homes and towns.
On the other hand, we have the response of the townspeople, rejection and crippling fear of Messiah, asking Him to leave their presence immediately, which presumes unbelief.
Rather than the fear of God and the unknown moving you away from God, may the power of His word move you ever so towards Jesus.
Do you have a story about your life that speaks to the love and saving Power of your Lord and Savior?
Are you willing to carry His name throughout the land telling about how He moved you from death to life?
PSALM 66:16 Come and hear, all who fear God,
And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.
We suggest for an in-depth explanation of these scriptures that you listen to our Gospel of Luke teaching on our website.