The anti-immigration and pro-kinist actions of Jesus in the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac

March 4, 2023

Dr Adi Schlebusch

In Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8 we read the famous tale of Jesus casting the demons named Legion out of the Demon-possessed man who lived in the country of the Gadarenes and then commanding them to enter a herd of pigs.

Now the country of the Gadarenes was located on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. This land had a long history of struggling with Israel for independence and self-determination, and the Gadarenes who had lived there at the time exhibited a culture that radically differed from that of the Jews. This is of course partially evidenced by the fact that they raised pigs. The confederacy of towns which made up the land united as a single country in 63 B.C. to strengthen their position within the Roman Empire and specifically to avoid amalgamation with the Jewish people from which they sought to remain distinct.1 It is highly probable that the Gadarene nation were descended from the Girashite people, a Canaanite people who had fled Canaan for North Africa during the Israelite conquest under Joshua and Caleb, but then later returned to their homeland to settle the region east of the Sea of Galilee.2

What is particularly striking about this historic event is that once Jesus leaves the land of the Gadarene people to go back to the land of the Jewish people, the man he had healed and who had come to faith in him, literally begs him to go along with him to the land of the Jews (Mark 5:18), a request that Jesus emphatically denies. Instead, he commands him to go home to his kinsmen and proclaim the gospel unto them (Mark 5:19), where after he goes back to his own people as Jesus goes to his (Mark 5:20-21). The man then continues to proclaim the gospel of Christ to his nation, and Jesus proceeds to continue his ministry among the Jews (Mark 5:20-24). It is striking that Jesus makes a point of visiting a nation whose nationalism had been historically shaped largely by distinguishing itself from the Jewish people into which he was born and to whom he dedicated his earthly ministry, and yet in the very act of bringing the gospel to this nation, he proceeds to vindicate their distinct identity and nationalism.

The command of Jesus to the man who had been possessed to remain among his own people as a witness stands in stark contrast to the pro-immigration and propositional nationhood doctrines currently popular in mainstream Christianity. In contrast to the amalgamation envisioned by the Liberals and the liberal Christian idea of a nation based solely on faith and not on ties of kinship, Jesus here points towards the true meaning of Pentecost: the discipling of the distinct nations, as nations, to his glory.

1. Van Bruggen, J. 2010. Commentaar op het Nieuwe Testament: Marcus, p. 123
2. Smith, W. 1979. Smith’s Bible Dictionary Revised Edition, A. J. Holman, p. 116