When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.Mark 5:6-13
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:12
The citadel city of Hippos sat high on a cliff overlooking the Sea Galilee and the Jews on the other side. Rome’s Tenth Legion camped inside it. The Legion’s crimson banner, overlayed with a golden boar, waved overhead. One of the Emperor’s swine herds grazed nearby. The pigs would feed Roman soldiers at Hippos and be sacrificed in worship of the divine Emperor himself.
In the boat with Jesus that night was Simon. Not the Simon sometimes called Peter, but the one they called the Zealot. Zealots were the Jews most opposed to Roman rule with its restrictions on Jewish life and worship, harsh taxes that left most in abject poverty, and constant violence against God’s people. Zealots refused to pay taxes to Rome and wanted to overthrow the Romans with violence. They routinely assassinated tax collectors and other Jewish traitors who enabled Roman rule.
Zealots like Simon had twisted the ancient prophecies about the Messiah to serve their hatred of Rome. When the Messiah arrived, they said, he would set up his kingdom in Jerusalem by first leading an army against the Romans. He would destroy Israel’s enemies once and for all.
Jesus, Simon the Zealot, and the other disciples stepped ashore about a mile from Hippos.
A man, naked and raving and bleeding, came from the tombs there, bowed down before Jesus and cried out, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”
Literally, “Why you and me?” Simon may have been wondering the same thing: Why are you, the Messiah, the one powerful enough to still the storm, wasting your time and power on this guy? There are Romans to kill right over there!
But this man was infested with the true enemy of Israel – the real enemy behind every enemy, every oppression and violence.
Instead of throwing the Roman Legion out of Judea, Jesus threw Satan’s Legion out of this man.
Instead of destroying the Emperor’s warriors that night, Jesus destroyed a means of Emperor worship and was worshiped.
The unclean spirits submitted to the LORD’s authority and obeyed. They bowed before the Messiah and honored him as Son of the Most High God. And the kingdom of Heaven spread like a weed beyond Jews to Gentiles, and beyond the physical dimension to the spiritual realm.
The Zealots were half right: When the Messiah arrived he would bring his kingdom by destroying Israel’s enemies. But her enemies were not flesh and blood Emperors and armies. Her real enemies were the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that fuel human oppression, violence, and idolatry.
• Am I fighting the real enemy?
Our Father in Heaven, we are often angry and fighting against our flesh and blood enemies. Today, give us eyes to see your enemy behind our enemies. Give us compassion for those we despise who are enslaved to evil lies and desires. Love them, invade them, free them.
Lead us all away from temptation today and deliver us all from evil.