As the disciples return to shore after their harrowing ordeal at sea, they experience quite a shock. Two very fierce men, both demon-possessed, come out from a nearby cemetery and run toward Jesus! One of the men becomes the focus of attention, possibly being more violent and having been controlled longer by the demons.
This pitiful man has been going about naked. Night and day, he is “crying out in the tombs and in the mountains and slashing himself with stones.” (Mark 5:5) He is so wild that people are afraid to pass along that stretch of road. Some have tried to bind him, but he tears the chains apart and breaks the fetters off his feet. Nobody has the strength to subdue him.
As the man approaches Jesus and falls at his feet, the demons controlling him make him scream: “What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I put you under oath by God not to torment me.” Jesus shows that he has authority over the demons, commanding: “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.”
In reality, many demons are possessing the man. When Jesus asks, “What is your name?” the reply is: “My name is Legion, because there are many of us.” (Mark 5:9) A Roman legion is made up of thousands of soldiers; hence, many demons are ganging up on this man, reveling in his sufferings. They beg Jesus “not to order them to go away into the abyss.” They apparently realize what is ahead for both them and their leader, Satan.
Grazing nearby is a herd of about 2,000 swine, animals that are unclean according to the Law and that Jews should not even own. The demons say: “Send us into the swine, so that we may enter into them.” (Mark 5:12) Jesus tells them to go, and they enter the swine. At that, all 2,000 of them stampede over the cliff and drown in the sea below.
When those taking care of the swine see this, they rush to report the news in the city and in the countryside. The people come out to see what has happened. As they arrive, they observe that the man from whom the demons came out is now well and acting sanely. Why, he is clothed and sitting at Jesus’ feet!
People who hear of this or see the man are gripped with fear, not understanding what this may mean for them. They urge Jesus to leave their territory. While Jesus is boarding the boat to leave, the formerly demonized man begs him to let him come along. But Jesus tells the man: “Go home to your relatives, and report to them all the things Jehovah has done for you and the mercy he has shown you.”
Jesus usually instructs those whom he heals not to tell anyone because he does not want people to reach conclusions about him on the basis of sensational reports. In this case, the formerly demonized man is living proof of Jesus’ power and can witness to people whom Jesus may not reach personally. His testimony may also counteract any unfavorable report about the loss of the swine. So the man goes and starts proclaiming throughout the Decapolis what Jesus did for him.