I. His power over the winds, those powers of the air that are so much a terror to men, especially upon sea, and occasion the death of such multitudes. Observe,
1. Christ ordered his disciples to put to sea, that he might show his glory upon the water, in stilling the waves, and might do an act of kindness to a poor possessed man on the other side the water: He went into a ship with his disciples, Luke 8:22. They that observe Christ’s orders may assure themselves of his presence. If Christ sends his disciples, he goes with them. And those may safely and boldly venture any where that have Christ accompanying them. He said, Let us go over unto the other side; for he had a piece of good work to do there. He might have gone by land, a little way about; but he chose to go by water, that he might show his wonders in the deep.
2. Those that put to sea in a calm, yea, and at Christ’s word, must yet prepare for a storm, and for the utmost peril in that storm; There came down a storm of wind on the lake (Luke 8:23), as if it were there, and no where else; and presently their ship was so tossed that it was filled with water, and they were in jeopardy of their lives. Perhaps the devil, who is the prince of the power of the air, and who raiseth winds by the permission of God, had some suspicion, from some words which Christ might let fall, that he was coming over the lake now on purpose to cast that legion of devils out of the poor man on the other side, and therefore poured this storm upon the ship he was in, designing, if possible, to have sunk him and prevented that victory.
3. Christ was asleep in the storm, Luke 8:23. Some bodily refreshment he must have, and he chose to take it when it would be least a hindrance to him in his work. The disciples of Christ may really have his gracious presence with them at sea, and in a storm, and yet he may seem as if he were asleep; he may not immediately appear for their relief, no, not when things seem to be brought even to the last extremity. Thus he will try their faith and patience, and quicken them by prayer to awake, and make their deliverance the more welcome when it comes at last.
4. A complaint to Christ of our danger, and the distress his church is in, is enough to engage him to awake, and appear for us, Luke 8:24. They cried, Master, master, we perish! The way to have our fears silenced is to bring them to Christ, and lay them before him. Those that in sincerity call Christ Master, and with faith and fervency call upon him as their Master, may be sure that he will not let them perish. There is no relief for poor souls that are under a sense of guilt, and a fear of wrath, like this, to go to Christ, and call him Master, and say, “I am undone, if thou do not help me.”
5. Christ’s business is to lay storms, as it is Satan’s business to raise them. He can do it; he has done it; he delights to do it: for he came to proclaim peace on earth. He rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, and immediately they ceased (Luke 8:24); not, as at other times, by degrees, but all of a sudden, there was a great calm. Thus Christ showed that, though the devil pretends to be the prince of the power of the air, yet even there he has him in a chain.
6. When our dangers are over, it becomes us to take to ourselves the shame of our own fears and to give to Christ the glory of his power. When Christ had turned the storm into a calm, then were they glad because they were quiet, Ps. 107:30. And then, (1.) Christ gives them a rebuke for their inordinate fear: Where is your faith? Luke 8:25. Note, Many that have true faith have it to seek when they have occasion to use it. They tremble, and are discouraged, if second causes frown upon them. A little thing disheartens them; and where is their faith then? (2.) They give him the glory of his power: They, being afraid, wondered. Those that had feared the storm, now that the danger was over with good reason feared him that had stilled it, and said one to another, What manner of man is this! They might as well have said, Who is a God like unto thee? For it is God’s prerogative to still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, Ps. 65:7.
II. His power over the devil, the prince of the power of the air. In the next passage of story he comes into a closer grapple with him than he did when he commanded the winds. Presently after the winds were stilled they were brought to their desired haven, and arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, and there went ashore (Luke 8:26, 27); and he soon met with that which was his business over, and which he thought it worth his while to go through a storm to accomplish.
We may learn a great deal out of this story concerning this world of infernal, malignant spirits, which, though not working now ordinarily in the same way as here, yet we are all concerned at all times to stand upon our guard against.
1. These malignant spirits are very numerous. They that had taken possession of this one man called themselves Legion (Luke 8:30), because many devils were entered into him: he had had devils a long time, Luke 8:27. But perhaps those that had been long in possession of him, upon some foresight of our Saviour’s coming to make an attack upon them, and finding they could not prevent it by the storm they had raised, sent for recruits, intending this to be a decisive battle, and hoping now to be too hard for him that had cast out so many unclean spirits, and to give him a defeat. They either were, or at least would be thought to be, a legion, formidable as an army with banners; and now, at least, to be, what the twentieth legion of the Roman army, which was long quartered at Chester, was styled, legio victrix—a victorious legion.
2. They have an inveterate enmity to man, and all his conveniences and comforts. This man in whom the devils had got possession, and kept it long, being under their influence, wore no clothes, neither abode in any house (Luke 8:27), though clothing and a habitation are two of the necessary supports of this life. Nay, and because man has a natural dread of the habitations of the dead, they forced this man to abide in the tombs, to make him so much the more a terror to himself and to all about him, so that his soul had as much cause as ever any man’s had to be weary of his life, and to choose strangling and death rather.
3. They are very strong, fierce, and unruly, and hate and scorn to be restrained: He was kept bound with chains and in fetters, that he might not be mischievous either to others or to himself, but he broke the bands, Luke 8:29. Note, Those that are ungovernable by any other thereby show that they are under Satan’s government; and this is the language of those that are so, even concerning God and Christ, their best friends, that would not either bind them from or bind themto any thing but for their own good: Let us break their bands in sunder. He was driven of the devil. Those that are under Christ’s government are sweetly led with the cords of a man and the bands of love; those that are under the devil’s government are furiously driven.
4. They are much enraged against our Lord Jesus, and have a great dread and horror of him: When the man whom they had possession of, and who spoke as they would have him, saw Jesus, he roared out as one in an agony, and fell down before him, to deprecate his wrath, and owned him to be the Son of God most high, that was infinitely above him and too hard for him; but protested against having any league or confederacy with him (which might sufficiently have silenced the blasphemous cavils of the scribes and Pharisees): What have I to do with thee? The devils have neither inclination to do service to Christ nor expectation to receive benefit by him: What have we to do with thee? But they dreaded his power and wrath: I beseech thee, torment me not. They do not say, I beseech thee, save me, but only, Torment me not. See whose language they speak that have only a dread of hell as a place of torment, but no desire of heaven as a place of holiness and love.
5. They are perfectly at the command, and under the power, of our Lord Jesus; and they knew it, for they besought him that he would not command them to go eis ton abysson—into the deep, the place of their torment, which they acknowledge he could easily and justly do. O what a comfort is this to the Lord’s people, that all the powers of darkness are under the check and control of the Lord Jesus! He has them all in a chain. He can send them to their own place, when he pleaseth.
6. They delight in doing mischief. When they found there was no remedy, but they must quit their hold of this poor man, they begged they might have leave to take possession of a herd of swine, Luke 8:32. When the devil at first brought man into a miserable state he brought a curse likewise upon the whole creation, and that became subject to enmity. And here, as an instance of that extensive enmity of his, when he could not destroy the man, he would destroy the swine. If he could not hurt them in their bodies, he would hurt them in their goods, which sometimes prove a great temptation to men to draw them from Christ, as here. Christ suffered them to enter into the swine, to convince the country what mischief the devil could do in it, if he should suffer him. No sooner had the devils leave than they entered into the swine; and no sooner had they entered into them than the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were drowned. For it is a miracle of mercy if those whom Satan possesses are not brought to destruction and perdition. This, and other instances, show that that roaring lion and red dragon seeks what and whom he may devour.
7. When the devil’s power is broken in any soul that soul recovers itself, and returns into a right frame, which supposes that those whom Satan gets possession of are put out of the possession of themselves: The man out of whom the devils were departed sat at the feet of Jesus, Luke 8:35. While he was under the devil’s power he was ready to fly in the face of Jesus; but now he sits at his feet, which is a sign that he is come to his right mind. If God has possession of us, he preserves to us the government and enjoyment of ourselves; but, if Satan has possession of us, he robs us of both. Let his power therefore in our souls be overturned, and let him come whose right our hearts are, and let us give them to him; for we are never more our own than when we are his.
Let us now see what was the effect of this miracle of casting the legion of devils out of this man.
(1.) What effect it had upon the people of that country who had lost their swine by it: The swineherds went and told it both in city and country (Luke 8:34), perhaps with a design to incense people against Christ. They told by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed (Luke 8:36), that it was by sending the devils into the swine, which was capable of an invidious representation, as if Christ could not have delivered the man out of their hands, but by delivering the swine into them. The people came out, to see what was done, and to enquire into it; and they were afraid (Luke 8:35); they were taken with great fear (Luke 8:37); they were surprised and amazed at it, and knew not what to say to it. They thought more of the destruction of the swine than of the deliverance of their poor afflicted neighbour, and of the country from the terror of his frenzy, which was become a public nuisance; and therefore the whole multitude besought Christ to depart from them for fear he should bring some other judgment upon them; whereas indeed none need to be afraid of Christ that are willing to forsake their sins and give up themselves to him. But Christ took them at their word: He went up into the ship, and returned back again. Those lose their Saviour, and their hopes in him, that love their swine better.
(2.) What effect it had upon the poor man who had recovered himself by it. He desired Christ’s company as much as others dreaded it: he besought Christ that he might be with him as others were that had been healed by him of evil spirits and infirmities (Luke 8:2), that Christ might be to him a protector and teacher, and that he might be to Christ for a name and a praise. He was loth to stay among those rude and brutish Gadarenes that desired Christ to depart from them. O gather not my soul with these sinners! But Christ would not take him along with him, but sent him home, to publish among those that knew him the great things God had done for him, that so he might be a blessing to his country, as he had been a burden to it. We must sometimes deny ourselves the satisfaction even of spiritual benefits and comforts, to gain an opportunity of being serviceable to the souls of others. Perhaps Christ knew that, when the resentment of the loss of their swine was a little over, they would be better disposed to consider the miracle, and therefore left the man among them to be a standing monument, and a monitor to them of it.