Jesus has just finished his impressive Sermon on the Mount and many are following him. They hear something different in his teaching and are drawn to him. Now, it’s time for them to see something different! Jesus is not all talk. He shows them the love and power of God which God gave to His Son to put into action to make believers, to convince the people that the Messiah was in their midst. Jesus is incredible to watch. He conquers disease, isolation, paralysis, suffering, fevers, demon possession, storms and the elements. He teaches a better way (add love) and he demonstrates what that looks like, with a healthy dose of God’s power.
Jesus is not scared of the leper who has been ostracized, feared and shunned because of the painful sores on his body and this contagious disease. Rather, he stops, listens, reaches out his hand, touches him, and heals him with compassion and power.
Likewise, he heals the Roman centurion’s servant (without even touching or seeing him) because of the faith of the centurion. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and she responds by serving him. He heals the sick and demon-possessed and in a mighty way he calms the storm and amazes his disciples.
Those are all great accounts of awesome acts, but today I want to look a little deeper at the last events of Matthew 8 – the healing of two demon-possessed men in the region of the Gadarenes. It is certainly not because I have a wealth of information to share with you about demon-possession. It is indeed one of those Bible topics I know is in there, but still have a lot of questions about. It might be easier to try to ignore it and read right over it – but then I would be missing a chunk of Jesus’ life and power and I don’t want to do that. And I can’t help but feel that if I understand this a little more…there could be something useful for me to learn and put into action myself today.
So, what do we learn about these specific demons from this passage?
They are powerful and violent and have control over people even in a physical manner.
They are smart in spiritual matters. They recognize Jesus as the Son of God! They know that there will be a time coming when Jesus will do battle against them and torture them. (Matthew 8:29)
Despite all the power these demons have displayed over people, and the fear they have instilled in others, they are now in Jesus’ presence (since he was bold enough to go where others wouldn’t). And in Jesus’ presence they are begging him. They realize the Son of God, Jesus, has power over them. They have more than met their match.
And then there are the townspeople’s reaction to Jesus! They hear that Jesus has freed these two men from the demons that controlled them and terrorized their roadways. And they learn that Jesus had sent the demons (as per their request) into a herd of pigs which then rushed down the steep bank and drowned in the water. And their response is to plead with Jesus to leave town, leave them alone. They had grown accustomed to the demon possessed men. It might not be pleasant, but it was what they knew. They were used to their violent ways and were practiced at trying to avoid personal injury; maybe some demons weren’t too bad to have around. After all, the townspeople were still able to raise their pigs and have a decent way of life.
Until Jesus came around. He freed the men and sent the demons packing, but the pigs were lost. The people feared what they did not know. And, they were likely a bit upset about their material loss.
Help me to not grow comfortable in the presence of evil. Help me never be more attached to my material goods than to what is right. Help me to see clearly evil for what it is. And help me see clearly the power of God for what it is. Help me to see the power God has given Jesus over spiritual darkness and demons – then, now and in the future. Help me always choose good over evil, whatever the cost.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1 – What’s the worst storm you have ever been in? How would you react (both that day, and the following month) if Jesus had appeared in the middle of it and calmed the storm with his words? How did the disciples react? Why do you think Jesus calmed this storm but not all storms?
2 – Did reading this chapter make you think of any questions you have for God? Talk to Him about them.
3 – Jesus wasn’t afraid to help the outcasts, touch the lepers, and go where others wouldn’t dare. If Jesus were in your town today where do you think we would find him?