“They Besought Him”
“And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.” (Luke 8:31-40)
I do not pretend to know much about prayer, though I very much want to know how to pray. But this I do know: — Prayer has something to do with worship. Prayer has something to do with gratitude, praise and thanksgiving. Prayer is primarily a work of the heart. Prayer has something to do with seeking and bowing to the will of God. It has something to do with the glory of God, the welfare of the kingdom of God and faith in Christ.
I know, beyond a doubt, that most of what men and women imagine is prayer and call prayer has nothing whatever to do with prayer. To all who think that prayer is simply asking God to give us what we want and receiving it, I say, “Read Luke chapter 8.” To those multitudes who vainly imagine that answered prayer is evidence of saving grace, I say, “Read Luke chapter 8.”
Here is a legion of demons praying to the Lord Jesus Christ, a legion of demons whose request the Lord immediately granted. Here is an entire city pleading with the Son of God to depart from their coasts, a city whose request the Lord Jesus granted on the spot. Here is a saved sinner, one whose heart burned with love and gratitude to Christ, who prayed that the Lord would graciously allow him to stay in his company, the prayer of an earnest soul, whose request the Lord Jesus denied.
What are we to learn from these things? Why are they here recorded in the Book of God? May God the Holy Spirit who caused theses words to be written now teach us their meaning.
First, in verses 31-33, we see devils praying; and the Lord Jesus Christ immediately grants the request of a legion of demons. The Lord Jesus answered their prayer, doing exactly what they requested
“And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.”
Even the demons of hell when terrified by the impending wrath and judgment of God pray; but such prayer is not prayer at all. The very demons of hell are under the command of the Son of God, totally controlled by him, and they both know it and acknowledge it; but such an acknowledgement is not true worship.
As the herd of swine was plunged into destruction by the influence of those demons, the demons who possessed the poor Gadarene, so the influence of hell that possesses unbelieving men and women will destroy their souls, unless the Son of God intervenes.
Second, in verse 37, we see an entire city of lost, reprobate sinners pleading with the Son of God to leave them, and he did. The Lord Jesus answered their prayer, doing exactly what they requested, just as he answered the prayer of the demons who possessed the Gadarene.
“Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.”
What an awesome, frightful sight this is! At the request of these men, the Son of God, the Lord of Glory, the Savior of the world, “went up into the ship and returned back!”
What possessed these men to make such a request? They knew exactly what the Lord had done. They knew his power. They saw the evidence of his goodness, grace and saving majesty sitting before them. Yet, they prayed not for him to work among them, for them, in them and with them, but for him to depart from them! — Why?
These men prayed for the Holy Lamb of God to leave their city. They begged the Dispossessor of demons to depart from them. They wanted the Healer of men’s souls to leave them, their wives and their children. They asked the King of Glory to depart from their town. They prayed for the Savior of the world to leave them alone. — Why?
Why did these men beg such a man to depart from their coasts? Would the Gadarenes prefer to have a wild, demon possessed man roaming their streets than the Son of God? Obviously they did; but why? I will give you the answer in one short sentence: — They loved the world and refused to give it up.
These men were convinced in their own consciences that they would lose much if the Son of God stayed among them. Therefore, counting the cost, they said, “Give us the world! Give us the demons of hell, if you must; but give us the world and leave us alone!” And that is exactly what he did!
Nothing has changed. All men by nature are exactly like these Gadarenes. We all prefer the raging, unbridled, uncontrolled lusts of our hearts, the horrid dominion of Satan, the dark influence of hell, the pursuits and follies of the world to the sweet dominion of the Son of God and the mercy, love and grace of God he brings. As John Trapp observed, “Take up your cross is a hard saying. Therefore Christ must be prayed to be gone, lest all our pigs be drowned.”
There is a day of grace, a time of visitation from the Lord, which if despised will become a day of wrath, vengeance and eternal ruin. Light despised will be turned into darkness. Mercy spurned will bring eternal misery. Let us take heed that we do not sin the sin of the Gadarenes (Job 21:14; Hosea 4:17; Proverbs 1:23-33; 29:1). Let it rather be our constant prayer, — “O Lord God, do not leave us to ourselves!”
Yet, even in this, I am reminded of God’s great mercy to our souls. Aren’t you? There was a time, not long ago, when we, too, besought the Son of God that he would depart from us. Did we not? Thank God, he refused to grant us our hearts’ desire. He refused to leave us alone. He refused to leave us to ourselves. He refused to give us up. He cried for us, “How shall I give thee up?”
Nothing less than a miracle of grace, nothing less than the intervention of sovereign mercy, nothing short of omnipotent love stepping into our lives could cause us to turn and seek the Lord our God, whom we most vehemently despised all our lives.
Third, in verses 38 and 39 the Holy Spirit gives us another highly instructive picture. Here is a saved sinner praying for permission to ever abide in the Lord’s presence, whose request the Lord Jesus graciously denied.
“Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.”
Without question, the man before us is a true believer. He is a heaven born soul. Not only had the demons been cast out of him, the Son of God had established his throne in him. Can you picture him? There he is sitting at the Savior’s feet, beaming with gratitude. He is clothed in the garments of salvation, filled with praise. He is, for the first time in his life, in his right mind. This newly regenerate, heaven-born soul was full of love, gratitude, joy and zeal.
Did you ever notice how striking the differences are in the ways our Master dealt with men? To this man he refused permission to forsake his family and homeland. He commanded the rich young ruler to forsake all and follow him. The healed leper was strictly charged to tell no man what the Master had done for him. Another was not even allowed to go home and bury his father. Our Savior knew what was in the hearts of all. He knew precisely what each case before him required, and he dealt with each according to the needs of their situation.
Why did the Lord Jesus refuse this man’s earnest request? It was, without question, the prayer of an earnest, loving, grateful, adoring heart. There was nothing selfish or self-serving in it. But the Master would not allow this man to go with him for good reasons. Our Master knows, far better than we the best place for us. This was an act of great mercy to the Gadarenes. This was a marvelous display of goodness to this man’s family. In a word, the Lord Jesus refused to grant the request of this man’s lips, so that he might give him the request of his heart (Romans 8:26; Matthew 6:9-13).
By refusing to allow this saved sinner to go with him, the Lord Jesus secured his best place and circumstances in which to glorify God. The Son of God graciously ordered his steps to walk in the will of God (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Master graciously used him to build up the kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus graciously led him not into temptation but delivered him from evil.
This young convert wanted to go immediately with Christ and become a preacher; but the Lord would not allow it. How many there are who have mistaken a desire to be a preacher for a call to the ministry. It is not. The Lord Jesus sent him home to his family and friends with a message to deliver to them.
The Master would not allow him to go where he wanted to go or do what he wanted to do; but he was given something far better, far more useful to do. God made him a witness to his own community. Now, that’s a preacher! The Lord told him exactly what to tell those of whom he would be a witness. He was sent to tell his family and friends what great things the Lord had done for him and how he had compassion on him.
And this sinner, saved by the grace of God, did what the Lord told him to do. — “And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.” Notice the language here. He was told to publish what great things the Lord had done. So he told everyone what great things Jesus had done. He knew that Jesus is Lord. He learned it by experience from the Lord himself.
The Lord Jesus graciously used this man in Decapolis for the good of many. The next time the Savior came into the region, he was readily received. Many came to him. Many were healed by him. Multitudes were fed by his hand (Mark 7:31- 8:1). Mercy came to many, because one sinner saved by grace faithfully told other sinners what great things the Lord had done for him!
What a wonderful change grace had wrought in the Gadarene! He who was a madman, possessed of the devil, was immediately so transformed by the saving grace of Christ that he desired never to leave his Lord’s side. Is this not the case with every child of God, when delivered from the power of darkness and translated from the cruel bondage of sin and death in to the kingdom of God’s dear Son? Once we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, we cannot but long to be “absent from the body, and present with the Lord.” But this must not immediately be the case. “To abide in the flesh is more needful.” Saved sinners are to go home to their lost families and friends, and proclaim “the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
Christ has, by his saving grace, made us members of his church upon earth. In this capacity we are to serve him and the souls of eternity bound sinners, until the time he has appointed comes to take us home. None of us will live here beyond that appointed time. And that appointed time cannot be too long, if God our Savior will be pleased to employ us for the welfare of his chosen. Mr. Hawker wrote, “Let this make us happy in waiting ‘all the days of our appointed time, until our change come.’” Until then, may God give us grace to make it our lives’ business to tell our family and friends, and all who will hear us, “what great things the Lord hath done for us, and hath had compassion on us.”
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