Such a simple question, really. When we ask it today, we use the answer to differentiate people with whom we are familiar. It was different in Jesus’ day. Names were given because of their meaning, not because of popularity or uniqueness. Learning someone’s name gave insight into the person’s character.
So it was at the time Jesus and his disciples crossed the lake of Galilee to get to the region of the Gadarenes. Beginning in Luke 8:26, we find a demon-possessed man living naked and alone among the tombs, totally out of his mind – the very reason Jesus made the journey.
This is where my observation differs from what’s been taught. I’ve heard the man referred to repeatedly as Legion, as if that was his given name. That is what came out of the man when Jesus asked, “What is your name?” Though the man’s mouth and vocal cords were used, it wasn’t the man who answered, but the demons, and it was the name the group of demons took for themselves. But it wasn’t his name.
In addition, because this passage has been read incorrectly over the years, a method has been established among those in spiritual warfare. Before casting it out, you command the demon to give its name; for instance, lust, anger, depression, greed, etc.
With these two observations in mind, take your time and read verses 29 and 30:
For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.
To whom does Jesus ask the question? The demons responded, but they spoke out of turn. He spoke only to the man – the one who housed the demons. He wanted to converse with him, to find out who he really was. He didn’t need the demons to give their name. Besides being unimportant to Him and what He would do, He understood their nature as liars, with no truth in them.
“What is your name?” Jesus asked the man.
Knowing this man was possessed, Jesus loved him – so much so that He asked his name. He didn’t ask how the man came to his current, horrible state, nor did He make conditions for setting him free, such as sinning no more. He simply asked his name. When the demons responded, they were cast out.
Can you see it as I do? Jesus looking with such love directly into the man’s eyes even as they glared at Him with demonic fire? Undeterred, Jesus loved the man to freedom as He watched the demons leave, enter the pigs, and drown in the lake. What love!
We’ve so often made the demons the focus of this story. Or the pigs that rushed into the lake once the demons entered them. But we missed the heart of Jesus! His freedom-producing love was for a totally lost and undeserving person. Just like each of us, with different issues.
So, what was this man’s name? I think I will call him Unconditionally Loved.
What’s your name?