During His time on earth, Jesus encountered many strange characters, including a demon named Legion who had possessed a man. In Mark 5:9, Jesus demanded the demon’s name, and it replied, “My name is Legion, . . . for we are many.” Legion, then, was not a solitary demon but was revealed to be a collective. The revelation potentially sheds light on why the possessed man was heavily tormented and had great strength. The people of the area had attempted to restrain him with chains, but he had torn the shackles apart (Mark 5:2–5).
Historically, a legion constituted the largest Roman military unit, often comprising thousands of soldiers. From the demon’s name, it is apparent that numerous unclean spirits can inhabit one person, a fact that underscores the difference between spiritual and non-spiritual entities. Without physical bodies, spirits can be likened to vapor, capable of occupying any space. The use of both singular and plural pronouns in the text of Mark 5 implies that a horde of demons can act cohesively, possibly for the purpose of deception. Scripture does not explicitly state the number of demons that formed Legion, but they entered a herd of around 2,000 pigs (verse 13).
Jesus’ demand for Legion’s name holds significance as it unveiled the demon’s true nature. While some posit that Jesus required the demons’ name to expel them, it is more likely that He aimed to reveal their hidden nature, asserting His authority over all of them. Names were crucial in the ancient world, even more so than today. Legion’s willingness to disclose his name underscores Jesus’ sovereignty over demons.
Additionally, it is significant that Legion has a name associated with warfare. Elsewhere, the word was used to designate groups of holy angels. When Jesus faced arrest, and Peter attempted to defend Him, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). Once again, we recognize God’s sovereignty and superiority, as well as the reality of spiritual warfare.
What lessons can we draw from the encounter between Jesus and Legion? First, Scripture affirms an unseen reality beyond ours. In today’s postmodern, materialist milieu, we may lose sight of and ignore the existence of spirits. Even within Christian circles, discussions about the supernatural can be uneasy. While we should not obsess over the supernatural realm, we needn’t live like atheists.
Second, Christ’s authority surpasses all forces, as epitomized on the cross (Colossians 2:15). Even spirits in rebellion acknowledge His supremacy. God’s sovereignty is absolute, despite our inability to fully grasp how it works with the free will He gave His creation. Nevertheless, Scripture asserts both God’s control and our free will.
Finally, we are enmeshed in spiritual warfare and should remain vigilant. Fortunately, we have enough weapons in our arsenal to withstand the threat (Ephesians 6:10–18).