Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 8:28-34; MARK 5:1-20; LUKE 8:26-39
28. And when he had come to the opposite bank, 542 into the country of the Gergesenes, two demoniacs, who had come from among the tombs, met him: and they were fierce beyond measure, so that no man could pass along that road. 29. And, lo, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, Son of God? Hast thou come hither before the time to torment us? 30. And at a distance from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31. And the devils entreated him, saying, If thou cast us out, permit us to remove into the herd of swine. 32. And he said to them, Go. And when they had gone out, they went away into the heard of swine. And, lo, the whole herd was carried headlong into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33. And those who had the charge of them fled; and going away into the city, they related all things, and what had happened to the demoniacs, 34. And, lo, the whole city went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they entreated him, that he would depart from their territories.
1. And having crossed the sea, they came into the country of Gaderanes. 2. And when he left the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man possessed by an unclean spirit, 3. Who had a dwelling among the tombs, 543 and no man could bind him, not even with chains: 4. Because frequently, when he had been bound with fetters and chains, the chains were torn asunder by him, and the fetters were broken in pieces, so that no man could tame him. 5. And always, day and night, he was in the mountains, and among the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6. And when he saw Jesus at a distance, he ran and worshipped him: 7. And, crying with a loud voice, he said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure thee by God, that thou do not torment me. 8. For he said to him, Go out of the man, unclean spirit. 9. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying to him, My name is Legion: for there are many. 10. And he entreated him earnestly, that he would not send him out of the country. 11. And there was there, near the mountains, a great herd of swine feeding. 12. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. 13. And immediately Jesus permitted them. And the unclean spirit having gone out, entered into the swine, and the herd was carried headlong into the sea: and they were about two thousand, and were choked in the sea. 14. Then those who tended the swine fled, and told it in the city and in the fields. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. 15. And they come to Jesus, and see the demoniac who had had the Legion, sitting and clothed, and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16. And those who had seen, related how it had happened to the demoniac, and concerning the swine. 17. And they began to request him to depart from their territories. 18. And when he entered into a ship, he who had been possessed by a devil besought him that he might be with him. 19. But Jesus did not permit him: but said to him, Go to thy home, to thy friends, and relate to them how great things God hath done to thee, and hath pitied thee. 20. And he went away, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all wondered.
26. And they sailed to the country of the Gaderenes, which is opposite to Galilee. 27. And when he had gone out of the ship into the land, there met him a certain man out of the city, who had devils for along time, and wore no clothes, and did not dwell in a house, but among the tombs. 28. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, 544 and said with a loud voice, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech thee, do not torment me. 29. For he was commanding the unclean spirit to go out of the man: for many times it had seized him, and he was bound by chains, and kept in fetters, and he broke the chains, and was driven by the devil into the deserts. 30. And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: for many devils had entered into him. 31. And they entreated him that he would not command them to go into the deep. 32. And there was there a herd of many swine feeding on the mountains, and they requested him to permit them to enter into them: and he permitted them. 33. And the devils going out of the man entered into the swine, and the herd ran violently down headlong into the lake, and were choked. 34. And when those who tended them saw what was done, they fled, and told it in the city and in the villages. 35. And they went out 545 to see what was done, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the devils and had gone out, clothed, and in his right mind, at the feet of Jesus; and they were afraid. 36. And those who had seen, related to them how the demoniac had been cured. 37. And the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes besought him to depart from them: for they were seized with a great fear; and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38. And the man out of whom the devils had departed requested to be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39. Return to thy house, and relate what things God hath done to thee. 546 And he went away through the whole city proclaiming what thing Jesus had done to him.
The error of those who think that Mark and Luke relate a different miracle from this, has been already refuted. It is the same country which was opposite, as Luke expressly states, to Galilee, that is described by the three Evangelists, and all the circumstances agree. Who then will believe that the same things, so fully coincident at all points, happened at different times?
Matthew 8:28 Two demoniacs met him Commentators have been led into the error of separating Matthew’s narrative from that of the others by this single difference, that he mentions two, while the others mention but one. There is probability in the conjecture of Augustine, who thinks that there were two, but accounts for not more than one being mentioned here by saying, that this one was more generally known, and that the aggravation of his disease made the miracle performed on him the more remarkable. And, indeed, we see that Luke and Mark employ many words in describing the extraordinary rage of the devil, so as to make it evident that the wretched man, of whom they speak, was grievously fomented. The circumstance of their holding up to commendation one singular instance of Christ’s divine power is not inconsistent with the narrative of Matthew, in which another, though less known man, 547 is also mentioned.
Luke 8:26. There met him a certain man out of the city It is uncertain whether Luke means that he was a citizen of Gadara, or that he came out of it to meet Christ. For, when he was ordered to go home and proclaim among his friends the grace of God, Mark says, that he did this in Decapolis, which was a neighboring country stretching towards Galilee; and hence it is conjectured that he was not a native of Gadara. Again, Matthew and Mark expressly state that he did not go out of the city, but from the tombs, and Luke himself, throughout the whole passage, gives us to understand that the man lived in solitary places. These words, therefore, there met him a certain man out of the city, I understand to mean, that, before Christ came near the city, the demoniac met him in that direction.
As to the opinion that the man dwelt among the graves, either because devils are delighted with the stench of dead bodies, or gratified by the smell of oblations, or because they watch over souls which are desirous to approach their bodies; it is an idle, and, indeed, a foolish conjecture. On the contrary, this wretched man was kept among the graves by an unclean spirit, that he might have an opportunity of terrifying him continually with the mournful spectacle of death, as if he were cut off from the society of men, and already dwelt among the dead. We learn from this also that the devil does not only torment men in the present life, but pursues them even to death, and that in death his dominion over them is chiefly exercised.
Mark 5:3. And no man could bind him, not even with chains Naturally, he was not able to break the chains; and hence we infer that Satan is sometimes permitted to make extraordinary movements, the effect of which goes beyond our comprehension and beyond ordinary means. We often perceive in madmen much greater strength than belongs to their natural capacity; and we are not at liberty to deny that, in such cases, the devil does his part when God permits him: but the force, which is described by the Evangelists, was far greater. 548 It was indeed a sad and shocking exhibition, but may serve to remind us how wretched and alarming it is to be placed under the tyranny of Satan, and also that bodily agony, however violent or cruel, is not more to be dreaded than distress of mind.
Mark 5:6 Worshipped him 549 The arrangement of the narrative may be thus stated. When the demoniacs came to meet him, Christ ordered the unclean spirits to go out of them, and then they prayed and entreated that he would not torment them before the time The worship, therefore, did not precede Christ’s words: nor did they complain that Christ gave them uneasiness, 550 till he urged them to go out. We ought to be aware that they did not come of their own accord into the presence of Christ, but were drawn by a secret exercise of his authority. As they had formerly been accustomed to carry men off, in furious violence, to the tombs, so now a superior power compels them to appear reluctantly at the tribunal of their judge.
Hence we infer, that the whole of Satan’s kingdom is subject to the authority of Christ. 551 For the devils, when Christ summons them to appear before him, are not more at their own disposal than were the wretched men whom their tyranny was wont to drive about in every direction. At length, by the secret power of Christ, they are dragged before him, that, by casting them out, he may prove himself to be the deliverer of men. Reluctantly too they worship him, and their rebellious complaints testify that their confession was not made from choice, but was drawn from them by force.
Matthew 8:29. What have we to do with thee? Willingly would they, by this word, drive him far from them. But when they see that they are held under restraint, and that it is in vain for them to decline his authority, they complain that they are tormented before the time, and likewise mingle entreaty. Thus we see that the devils breathe nothing but rebellion against God; and yet, with all their swelling pride, they are crushed and fall in a moment: for their malice and obstinacy, which is never subdued, ceases not to struggle against the government of God, and yet it is compelled to yield.
Christ does not openly reject, as he did on other occasions, the confession of the devil; and the reason appears to be, that their enmity towards him was so manifest, as to remove every opportunity of unfavorable or calumnious imputation. Besides, Christ paid regard to the spectators. Accordingly, when malicious and wicked men were present, he was more eager to repress calumnies, and more inclined to put a severe restraint on devils. On the present occasion, it was quite enough that the devils, while they were offering a prayer and entreaty, raged and stormed against him.
Hast thou come hither before the time to torment us? Some explain this kind of torment as consisting in their being compelled to set at absolute liberty the man whom they possessed. Others understand it as referring to the last day of judgment. My view of it is, that they trembled in the presence of their Judge, while they thought of their punishment: for, though Christ said nothing, 552 a bad conscience told them what they deserved. As criminals, when they come to the judgment-seat, expect their punishment, so devils and all wicked men must tremble at the sight of God, as truly as if they already experienced hell, the unquenchable fire, and the torments that await them. Now, the devils knew that Christ was the Judge of the world; and therefore we need not wonder that the sight of him impressed them with dread of immediate torment.
Were they acquainted with the day of the last judgment? This question, which some have proposed, is uncalled for. What, then, is the meaning of the phrase, before the time? It means that the reprobate never reckon that the time for punishing them is fully come: for they would willingly delay it from day to day. 553 Any measure of delay, which the Lord is pleased to allow them, is counted gain; and thus by subterfuges they endeavor to avoid his sentence, though the attempt is to no purpose.
Mark 5:9 My name is Legion. The devil was compelled by Christ to pronounce this word, that he might more fully display the greatness and excellence of his grace. There must have been good reasons why this man should have endured so severe a punishment as to have an army of devils, so to speak, dwelling within him. What compassion then was it, to rescue from so many deaths a man who was more than a thousand times ruined! It was a magnificent display of the power of Christ., that by his voice not one devil, but a great multitude of devils, were suddenly driven out. Legion denotes here not a definite number of men, but merely a great multitude.
Hence it is evident what a wretched creature man is, when he is deprived of the divine protection. Every man is not only exposed to a single devil, but becomes the retreat of vast numbers. This passage refutes also the common error, which has been borrowed by Jews and Christians from the heathens, that every man is attacked by his own particular devil? On the contrary, Scripture plainly declares, that, just as it pleases God, one devil 554 is sometimes sent to punish a whole nation, and at other times many devils are permitted to punish one man: as, on the other hand, one angel sometimes protects a whole nation, and every man has many angels to act as his guardians. There is the greater necessity for keeping diligent watch, lest so great a multitude of enemies should take us by surprise.
Mark 5:10. And entreated him earnestly Luke says, they requested that they might not be sent into the deep Some explain these words to mean that they wished to avoid uninhabited places. 555 I rather view it as referring to their rage for doing mischief. As the devils have no other object than to prowl among men, like lions in search of prey, they are grieved at being plunged into the deep, where they will have no opportunity of injuring and ruining men. That this is the true meaning may be inferred from the words of Mark, who says that they requested that they might not be compelled to go out of the country In a word, they manifest their disposition to be such, that there is nothing which they more eagerly desire than the destruction of mankind.
Matthew 8:31. Permit us to depart into the herd of swine Some conjecture that they wished to attack the swine, because they are filled with enmity to all God’s creatures. I do admit it to be true, that they are entirely bent on confounding and overthrowing the whole order of nature which God has appointed. But it is certain that they had a more remote object in view, to excite the inhabitants of that country to curse God on account of the loss of the swine. When the devil thunders against Job’s house, he does so not from any hatred he bears to timber or stones, but in order that the good man, through impatience at suffering loss, may break out against God. Again, when Christ consents, he does not listen to their prayers, but chooses to try in this manner what sort of people the Gadarenes are. Perhaps, too, it is to punish their crimes that he grants to the devils so much power over their swine. While the reason of it is not known by us with certainty, it is proper for us to behold with reverence and to adore with devout humility, the hidden judgment of God. This passage shows also the foolish trifling of some irreligious men, who imagine that the devils are not actually existing spirits, but merely the depraved affections of men: for how could covetousness, ambition, cruelty, and deceit, enter into the swine? Let us learn also, that unclean spirits (as they are devoted to destruction) are the enemies of mankind; so that they plunge all whom they can into the same destruction with themselves.
Mark 5:15. And they come to Jesus We have here a striking proof that not all who perceive the hand of God profit as they ought to do by yielding themselves to him in sincere godliness. Having seen the miracle, the Gadarenes were afraid, because the majesty of God shone brightly in Christ. So far they did right but now that they send him out of their territories, what could have been done worse than this? They too were scattered, and here is a shepherd to collect them or rather, it is God who stretches out his arms, through his Son, to embrace and carry to heaven those who were overwhelmed by the darkness of death. They choose rather to be deprived of the salvation which is offered to them, than to endure any longer the presence of Christ.
The apparent ground of their offense is the loss of the swine, but Luke assigns a loftier cause, that they were seized with a great fear; 556 and certainly, if they had been exasperated by the loss which they sustained, they would not have requested him, but would rudely have driven him out. They honor him as God’s minister, and yet are so struck with dread as to desire that he will go to a distance from them. Thus we see that they were not at all moved by a sense of the divine grace. And indeed, though all wicked men adore God, and bestow great pains on appeasing him, yet if they had their choice, they would withdraw to the greatest possible distance from him: for his face is terrible, so long as they contemplate him as a Judge, and not as a Father. The consequence is, that the gospel, which is more delightful than any thing that can be conceived, is everywhere considered to be so dismal and severe, that a good part of the world would wish that it were buried.
And yet it is true that their fear was partly occasioned by their loss. Thus at the present day, so long as men believe that the kingdom of God is opposed to their interest, either of a public or private nature, they are prepossessed by a depraved and carnal fear, and have no relish for his grace. Accordingly, when he comes, they think that God does not regard them with favor, but rather with anger, and, so far as lies in their power, they send him to another place. It is a mark of shameful insensibility in those men, that the loss of their swine gives them more alarm than the salvation of their soul would give them joy.
Luke 8:38. And the men requested The Gadarenes cannot endure to have Christ among them but he who has been delivered from the devil is desirous to leave his own country and follow him. Hence we learn how wide is the difference between the knowledge of the goodness, and the knowledge of the power, of God. Power strikes men with terror, makes them fly from the presence of God, and drives them to a distance from him: but goodness draws them gently, and makes them feel that nothing is more desirable than to be united to God. Why Christ refuses to have this man as one of his followers we cannot determine with certainty, if it was not that he expected the man to make himself more extensively useful by communicating to his Gentile countrymen the remarkable and extraordinary act of kindness which he had received; and this he actually did, as we are assured by Mark and Luke.
39. Relate those things which God hath done for thee. He bids him relate not his own work, but the work of God His design in doing so is, that he may be acknowledged to be the true minister and prophet of God, and may thus acquire authority in teaching. In this gradual manner it was proper to instruct an ignorant people who were not yet acquainted with his divinity. Though Christ is the ladder by which we ascend to God the Father, yet, as he was not yet fully manifested, he begins with the Father, till a fitter opportunity occurred.
We must now add the symbolical meaning. 557 In the person of one man Christ has exhibited to us “proof of his grace” which is extended to all mankind. Though we are not tortured by the devil, yet he holds us as his slaves, 558 till the Son of God delivers us from his tyranny. 559 Naked, torn, and disfigured, we wander about, 560 till he restores us to soundness of mind. It remains that, in magnifying his grace, we testify our gratitude.
“Et quarid il fur passd outre, ou a l'autre rive, cornme au verset 18;” — “and when he had passed beyond, or to the other bank, as at Mt 8:18.”
“Lequel faisoit sa demeurance;” — “who made his dwelling.”
“Il se jetta devant luy;” — “he threw himself down before him.”
“Ainsi les gens sortirent pour voir;” — “so the peoplo went out to see.”
“Raconte combien grandes choses Dieu t'a faitcs;” — “relate how great things God hath done to thee.”
“Combien qu'il ne lust pas rant eognu que le premier;” — “though he was not so well known as the former.”
“Mais l'effort et la violence que les Evangelistes deserlvent estoit bien autre et plus grande;” — “but the effort and the violence, which the Evangelists describe, was quite different and much greater.”
“S'enclina devant luy;” — “kneeled down before him.”
“Et ils ne se sont point plainds que Christ les tormentast, sinon quand il les pressoit de sortir;” — “and they did not complain that Christ tormented them, till he urged them to go out.”
“Que tout le regne de Satan est tenu en bride sous la domination de Christ;” — “that all the kingdom of Satan is kept in check under the government of Christ.”
“Sans que Christ ouvrist sa bouche;” — “without Christ opening his mouth.”
“Ils voudroyent bien tousjours prolonger leur terme;” — “they would always choose to prolong their time.
“A scavoir que chacun hornroe ha son diable et son mauvals ange qui lui fait la guerre;” — “namely, that each man has his devil and his evil angel who makes war with him.”
“Ce qu'aucuns exposent comme si les diables n'eussent point voulu aller en lieu desert;” — “which some explain as if the devils did not wish to go into a desert place.”
“ ᾿Εφοβήθησαν, they were afraid, (Mr 5:15,) is by most Commentators understood of fear lest they might suffer a yet greater calamity; but it rather denotes awe at the stupendous miracle.” — Bloomfield
Nunc addenda est anagoge. — “Maintenant il rested adjouster la deduction ou derivation;” — “it now remains to add the inference or remoter instruction.” — The word anagoge, or rather ἀναγωγὴ was technically employed by divines of the allegorizing school to denote the mystical meaning, which was the last and most recondite, as the literal was the first and most obvious, of the various meanings which they supposed to be contained in every verse of the Bible. Never did those men encounter a more zealous or more formidable opponent than Calvin. But, while he manfully sets his face against all that is mystical, when it can plead no higher authority than the ravings of a wild imagination, he is equally careful that those instructions which are indicated, though not directly conveyed, by the sacred writers, shall receive due consideration. He lays down as a general principle, which he endeavors to support by the word of God, that the cures of bodily diseases, performed by our Lord and his apostles, were intended to be symbolical of the removal of spiritual diseases by the power and grace of the Great Physician. Seldom does he close his illustration of one of those miracles without adverting to the loftier and more important occasions on which the arm of the Deliverer will put forth its strength. It is to this symbolical meaning that Calvin, under the word ἀναγωγὴ, borrowing the language, but disavowing the principles, of an ancient school, now proceeds to draw the attention of his reader. The grounds of his opinion it were foreign to our purpose to examine, but we have judged it necessary to append this note, in order to bring out clearly what the Author means. — Ed.
“Toutesfois nous luy sommes serfs et esclaves;” — “yet we are his serfs and slaves.”
“De la tyrannic malheureuse d'iceluy;” — “from his unhappy tyranny.”
“Nous ne raisons que trainer ca et la estans nuds, deschirez, et dis- figurez;” — “we do but drag along here and there, being naked, torn, and disfigured.”