For many times [the unclean spirit] had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.
Jesus got in a boat, travelled across the Sea of Galilee, and landed in gentile territory. As soon as he stepped out of the boat, he was greeted by a man, who wore no clothes, and who was chained and bound in the town cemetery.
Quite the welcoming committee, huh?
The man was afflicted with a horde of demons—which is bad enough, right? But, as if that wasn’t enough, the townspeople keep him chained up outside their village, where they bury their dead. Then Jesus frees the man from his affliction, and the people “were seized with great fear.”
I mean, couldn’t they be happy for him? Couldn’t they celebrate his freedom? This man had been so debilitated for so long, and now he could rejoin the full life of the community—and all they could conjure up was fear.
Were they frightened of Jesus? Or, were they frightened that the comfortable order of their lives had been upset? Had they gotten so used to the man being naked and bound in the graveyard that seeing him get better was more of a nuisance than a cause for joy?
This man lived bound up on the outskirts of town, filled to the brim with evil: but, was he the one who was truly bound? What keeps you bound, just out of comfort?
The guy with the demon was a “Geresene,” and there is a place in the Galilee region that was named “Gerasa.” The only problem is that Gerasa was thirty miles from the Sea of Galilee. That would have been a long run for the pigs to make it to the water! There’s another little settlement called “Gedara” which was right on the Sea and near Tiberias. We think that this was where Jesus had this interaction.
The guy was naked and chained up in the graveyard. Both of these things were considered offensive and unclean to ancient Jews. You just didn’t walk around in public without clothes on. And, gravestones were always whitewashed so that you didn’t end up touching one by mistake. When Luke’s first audience heard this story, their skin would have crawled.
”Legion” is a military term, which refers to a unit of 4,000 to 6,000 Roman Soldiers. In this context, “Legion” is a name for the unclean spirit, but is also a reference to how many spirits were in the man.