Introduction: We have come to the end of Matt chapter eight where we have been convinced of Jesus’ authority and power over disease and demon and his care for both familiar and stranger. Today, we conclude the chapter by learning something great about Christ and sad about man.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Two Demon-Possessed Men [vv28-29]
Jesus has finally made it to the other side of the lake. The area in which Jesus and his disciples arrive was surely Gentile. One major clue that gives that fact away is the herd of pigs that was feeding near by. The pig is unclean according to the Law and Jews would have had nothing to do with them. Why would Jesus have gone into this Gentile territory? Surely, he did so to get away from the crowds that were pressing in on him and even fewer people would have hung around the tombs that were in that area. Yet, they are met by two demon-possessed men. Though, if you think about it, a graveyard is actually a likely place for evil spirits. Apparently there were caves that provided shelter or some of the tombs were possibly abandoned.
Matthew describes the two demon-possessed men as “exceedingly fierce” meaning that they were “hard to deal with, harsh, fierce, savage” (Morris, 209). The men were so violent that they had become a great threat to the community. Not only did anyone not want to pass by, but Matthew says that “no one could pass that way.” Normal men did not even have the ability to pass by the way of these two demoniacs. The twelve probably wanted to jump back in the boat.
When the disciples saw Jesus still the violent storm on the sea, they wondered who he could be. Matt 8:26-27 says, “Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’” Yet, the demons know exactly who Jesus is. It has been pointed out that “. . . to know Jesus yet hate him is demonic” (Carson, 218). It is amazing that these demons knew exactly who Jesus was/is and yet they still remained opposed to him. How many in this world are the same?
The demons approach Jesus and lash out at him with a harsh and hateful tone. They truly fear what Jesus, the Son of God, can do. So, they initiate the dialogue with two questions. The first question seeks to find the reason for Jesus’ coming into their territory. The demons and Jesus have nothing in common and to say the least, what they cry out is not an invitation. The demons recognize Jesus as the “Son of God” meaning that they know that he is the one sent from God, he is the Messiah. The second question is an interesting one. The demons want to know if Jesus had come to torment them. Several things can be acknowledged in this question. First, the demons know for a fact that they will be tormented in the end. Second, the demons know that Jesus will be their judge when the time comes. Third, the demons do not think that “here” (the current earth) is the place of their torment. This agrees with the rest of Scripture which declares that the “everlasting fire” was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). Fourth, the demons realize that there is an appointed time for their judgment and eternal torment. They may have some freedom now to roam around this planet tormenting mankind, but that time is limited. They will be judged and cast into the lake of fire by the Son of God. Lastly, no one can deny the preexistence of Christ from this phrase. How else would the demons know Jesus so well?
The Herd of Swine [vv30-32]
As I said before, that there is a “herd of many swine feeding” points us to the fact that this is Gentile territory. In both Jewish and Gentile territories there are demonic forces at work. Matthew sets the scene, as only an eyewitness can, by telling us that the herd of pigs was “a good way off from them.” The wording used refers to a good size herd and they were simply feeding with no thought to violence. I think it is interesting that the demons “begged” Jesus. That directs me to their genuine fear. They felt strongly that Jesus was going to cast them out of the men, so they request to be sent into the pigs. Why be cast into pigs? Two reasons have been offered: the demons hate God’s creation and they sought to cause trouble for Jesus (they end up killing the pigs which were someone’s property). With only the word “go” the demons obey what the Son of God commands. Not only do the winds and waves obey Jesus, but the demons do as well. Apparently the demons forced the pigs over a cliff and they drowned in the sea.
They Begged Him to Depart [vv33-34]
Those who tended to the pigs were surely blown away by the events that day. When the demons were cast into the pigs and they were suddenly killed, the attendants of the herd fled into the city. They found others and told everything that had happened to the demon-possessed men. Matthew gives us their reaction when he says, “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus.” Surely they wanted to see this man who had power over the demons. They probably wanted to greet him and invite him to stay in their city for a while. They most likely wanted to learn more about him. They would want see the men who had been healed and thank Jesus for the miracle. Right? Wrong. . . “When they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.” Wow.
Because the herd of pigs died, we learn a lesson about mankind from the reaction. Are the townspeople grateful for ridding two men of demons? No. Are they excited that the demons had been sent away from their community and humiliated? No. Are they in awe of Jesus? No.
One man said it this way, “They preferred pigs to persons, swine to Savior” (Carson, 219).
Mankind is selfish and unsympathetic. In our old sinful natures, we do not care about others but only ourselves. They did not care for the fate of the two men. They cared for the fate of their own personal property.
As we conclude, let us summarize a few lessons from this account.
1) Jesus had opposition from both the Jews and the Gentiles. Faith or rebellion are not characteristic of certain races or ethnicities.
2) Jesus has ultimate authority and power over the forces of Satan
3) Even the most horrible and harsh lives can be healed by Jesus
4) Mankind, in his sinful nature, is uncaring for others and opposed to Jesus Christ