Story Overview: For many people a deranged wild man who lived in a cemetery would be someone to avoid. Instead of ignoring the man’s suffering, Jesus saw beyond the man’s outward condition. In an event very foreign to us today, Jesus actually spoke to the demons and sent them out of the man and into a herd of pigs. The pigs then ran over a cliff to their death. Only Jesus had the power to do what he did.
Suggested Emphasis: Do not avoid or put down people who are different. Jesus looked beyond physical and mental disabilities and so should we.
|Background Study||Way to Introduce the Story||The Story|
|Review Questions||Craft and Activity Ideas||Online Resources|
You can also read about this story in Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39.
If this was a movie then the opening scene would be gripping! It is the middle of the night. Jesus and the disciples have just been through a terrible storm. The disciples are reeling from the realization that Jesus could just speak to a storm and make it stop. Then, they land the boat near a cemetery and a naked demon-possessed man (covered in blood and wearing broken chains) runs out yelling at Jesus.
The region of the Gerasenes was on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee from where many of the other stories about Jesus take place. It was a place where many Gentiles (non-Jews) lived. This can be seen in the fact that there was a huge herd of pigs nearby (verse 11). Jews did not eat pork because God had declared it unclean.
Another thing that was unclean was a tomb. Jews were not supposed to be near dead bodies. The fact that this man came to them out of the tombs reveals how different he was from them. He was an unclean man living in an unclean place surrounded by unclean animals. His reputation was so bad that even the Gentiles in the nearby town had cast him out. This man lived a pathetic life. Being possessed by demons had ruined his life.
Matthew’s account mentions two demon-possessed men. Mark and Luke only mention one so perhaps one of the men was the more outspoken and one stood back.
The demons that lived in the man used the man’s voice to address Jesus. Even demons recognize the power of God and the demons used the name of God in a vain attempt to protect themselves. A Roman legion is a military group made up of 6000 men. This man was possessed by many demons.
The power of Jesus is seen in his ability to converse with powers of darkness that we humans cannot even see. He commanded the demons to transfer into the herd of nearby pigs. The pigs ran into the sea and drowned. Perhaps this was a final end instead of an eternal punishment of “the Abyss” (Luke 8:31).
This whole encounter was an amazing thing to watch. The ones who had been tending the pigs would have been very confused in the least. They rushed to tell everyone in town. The people from town had seen the demon-possessed man many times but that had not frightened them like the sight of the man, fully clothed, obviously in his right mind.
The town’s people had tried to keep this man away by chaining him up and hiding him away. It is easier to dismiss people or cast them out than it is to actually deal with them and live beside them. This and the fact that Jesus was interrupting their economic stability (pigs) made the people ask Jesus to leave.
Jesus knew that the healed man would be a living example to all of the people. Although the man wanted to go with Jesus, Jesus told the man to go back to his family and tell them all about what the Lord had done for him.
We may not have to deal with a demon-possessed person but we certainly have people in our society who are cast out or ignored because they are different to the norm. Use today’s class to talk about how God loves everyone, despite handicaps or challenges. We are to love them too.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Have you ever been somewhere when someone acted very different from you? (Share a time from your own life). Sometimes we feel embarrassed or do not know how to act around people who are different from us. That is because we are only looking at the outside of a person instead of at their heart. In today’s story, Jesus meets a man who was acting in a very unusual way. Let’s see what Jesus did.
It was a very scary night when the boat pulled onto the shore. Jesus and his disciples got off the boat and realized that they were in a cemetery. Would you be afraid if you were in a dark cemetery at night?
Things got even scarier when a man started running out from the cemetery. He was yelling and screaming. He didn’t have any clothes on and there were scratches and blood all over him. The man had broken bits chain hanging from his wrists and ankles.
What would you do if you saw someone acting very odd like that? The disciples were frightened but the man did not come to them. He ran straight up to Jesus and started talking in a very strange voice. The disciples wanted to run away but Jesus knew that there was something very wrong with this man. He did not care that the man was different and strange. Jesus just wanted to help him.
This man had no friends. No one in the town wanted him around because he acted very strange. They used to put chains on him and try to keep him away from the town but the man was very strong and he broke the chains. He started hiding in the cemetery so no one could find him. He did not act normal. He even used to get pieces of glass and cut himself.
Jesus knew what was wrong with the man. Jesus could see things that no one else could see. The man had a kind of sickness that no one could make better. Jesus knew that evil spirits lived inside this man. The evils spirits, or demons, made this man do very unusual things.
Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” the man replied in a very strange voice, “for we are many.”
Jesus knew that it was the evil spirits inside the man that were talking. He wanted to help the man so he told the evil spirits to get out.
The evil spirits inside the man used the man’s voice to beg Jesus not to punish them forever. “Send us into the pigs that are in the field instead.”
Jesus sent the evil spirits into the pigs. The pigs ran very fast and ran over a cliff and into the water and drowned. Then there were no more evil spirits. The men who had been tending the pigs ran into town to tell everyone what had happened.
When the people from town came to the shore they were amazed at what they saw. There was the man that they used to chain up. The man did not look unusual now. He was wearing clean clothes and acting completely normal. He was sitting quietly talking to Jesus.
Do you think the people were happy with Jesus? Do you think they were glad that the strange man was now normal? No they were not. Instead of thanking Jesus for making the man well they were only worried that all of their pigs were gone. They told Jesus to leave their region.
Jesus and the disciples got back in the boat and the man tried to get in the boat too. “No,” Jesus told him, “Go back to your family and tell them all of the wonderful things God has done for you today.”
The man did just as Jesus said. He went back to his family and told them about God. They were so happy to see him. They were happy to hear about God.
- Where did the man possessed by evil spirits live? In a cemetery (tombs)
- What did the demon-possessed man tear off of his hands and feet? Chains
- Where did the evil spirits go when Jesus cast them out? Into a herd of pigs
- When Jesus cast the evil spirits into the herd of pigs, what then happened to the pigs? They ran off a cliff into water and drowned.
Craft and Activity ideas for the class (choose age appropriate ones):
- Have someone who is physically disabled or who works with people who are challenged in some way come to class and speak to the children. All of us need to understand that just because people are different doesn’t mean we should not love them and care for them. Obtain literature if it is suitable.
- Learn some words in sign language.
- Find some Braille material and show it to the class.
- Children in your class probably know someone who is disabled. They could talk about this today.
- To help get the conversation started place paper clips or coins in an unsealed envelope and clip it shut with a clothes peg or clip. Have a little competition and time the children in the challenge of using one hand to remove the items from the envelope and place them in a cup. After the children have done this then do it again with an additional challenge. You might place a loose glove on their hand or tape their thumb down. Time them again. Of course this will take a lot longer and possibly be frustrating even though the desire to do it was the same. Now ask children to talk about how this relates to being physically challenged. Talk about how we can be friends to people who have extra challenges.top
- Colouring page (1) at http://www.calvarywilliamsport.com/5a114.htm
- Colouring page (2) at http://www.calvarywilliamsport.com/5a115.htm
- Colouring page for pre-schoolers on sharing your faith (1) at http://www.calvarywilliamsport.com/5a182.html
- Colouring page for pre-schoolers on sharing your faith (2) at http://www.calvarywilliamsport.com/5a183.html
- Application Activity at http://www.kidssundayschool.com/Gradeschool/Activities/1activity03.php
- Craft: Printable paper dolls at http://www.makingfriends.com/friends/f+sick.htm
- Craft: Video clip (2 minutes and 30 seconds) on how to make paper chains at http://www.simplekidscrafts.com/video/paper-arts-and-crafts-how-to-make-decorative-paper-chains
- Craft: Pig finger puppet at http://www.kids-birthday-party-guide.com/pig-crafts.html
- Craft: Piggy bank made from plastic bottle at http://www.kids-birthday-party-guide.com/pig-crafts.html
- Wordsearch puzzle at http://www.sermons4kids.com/jesus_heals_demoniac_wordsearch.htm
- Lesson Plan at http://www.godsacres.org/ss.Legion.pdf