The Matthew Series: 6. The demoniacs
Matthew 8:28-34 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Restores Two Demon-Possessed Men
28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,[a] two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
Tonight is a continuation of the question posed by the disciples last week; who is this man? Today we see it is not only one with YHWH who holds back the primordial chaos. He is the one who overcomes evil. Who takes head on the forces of evil and they too respond to his world.
Now before we get there we have to open the discussion on demons; you see church, and as C.S. Lewis states;
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
This is exactly how the story tonight deals with the reality of these forces; it states them as a reality, but gives us no insight on their nature or any deep study on who they are or what is their purpose in the world. They simply exist and are against God and man. Church, there are personal, immaterial beings out there that can influence, direct and even control the actions and behaviours of people, groups, communities etc.
Today as Matthew introduces us to this topic we notice that it is not to give us insight on demons, rather it is to give us insight into who Jesus is. And so we get an insight on who Christ is from the demon’s perspective;
Firstly it is revealed that;
1. The Demons know Him and fear (vs 29)
In verse 29 we see the demons say to Christ;
29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Right in this opening dialogue the demons express that they know who Jesus is and what He has come to do. So the disciples from last week were in terror at who this man is, they had no category to put him in. The demons instantly identify him and call out His mission. Because they have known Him since the dawn of creation; He is the one who created them; they reflect this reality.
So we see that Jesus is the Son of God and he has come to destroy the work of the devil. Church going back the question that Matthew asks is this is the Son of God. Now to the Jewish mind this is not a simple reality to reconcile and in fact it took the church over 300 years to actually figure out the complexity of this dynamic.
You see church, the Bible and the Jews and indeed, us Christian’s affirm that we are monotheists in other words we believe that this is only one God as opposed to many And because there is one God, there is no-one like Him, He is unique, added to this, He by definition has to be outside of the realm of this world, i.e. Spiritual. The idea of God becoming a man, or even having a Son to the Jewish mind was not just impossible it was absurd. The Jews would have to category to even understand this.
To understand this; we all have presupposition on which we build reasonable blocks on knowledge upon. If something comes along that doesn’t connect with those presuppositions (those pre-defined ideas) there is no way we can build our knowledge of it upon and so we reject it outright. One great example of this is the inventions of Nicola Tesla who was the inventor of AC current and who the car company is named after. Tesla had worked out many of the technologies that we take for granted today such as the electric moto, radio waves, remote control etc. the problem is that he was inventing these things during the early 1900 at the same time people were finding out about electricity for the first time. So when he proposed these things, there was no premise on which to understand these things or their purpose and so they were rejected.
The disciple and Jews around Jesus had no premise to understand Jesus as He was, but the demons, who were there at the beginning as He created them, they knew Him as He was, and So Matthew gives us insight via the demonic percept of who Jesus was; He was and is the Son of God.
Added to this we get insight to Jesus’ mission; they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Jesus came to destroy the work of the devils and Satan. We get greater insight of this in Revelation 20:10
10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
We also see this in 1 John 3:8
8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
The demons, give us insight into the work of Christ and who he is, but next we see in this story the character of Christ and the insidious nature of the demons.
We move to how,
2. The Demons hate Him and seek to frustrate His efforts (vs30-33)
In verse 30 to 33 we see a strange dialogue between Jesus and the demons, we see the demons begging Christ to not drive them to the pit, rather to send us to the pigs and amazingly Christ says, “go”. Now there are many questions in the dialogue, why pigs added to this why did the demons kill the pigs and finally why did Jesus allow them to go into Pig?
Well the simple answer is that this was a large herd of pigs, in other words this was someone’s business, their livelihood, and if you look at the response of the crowd afterwards it was of great economic value to the whole town. So the demons were not simply looking for a body to possess, although they might have needed one, we don’t know. What we can deduce from this text is that the demons planned to, by this action, frustrate or even completely destroy the work of Christ in this area.
They hated Christ and His work and so tried to do as much damage to his image in this town that the work of Christ would be frustrated and complicated. Now let’s be real church, this is still happening today, Satan and his demons spend their lives aggravating the church, the work of the gospel and people to frustrate the plans of God and the work of Christ in the world.
Now, we see that the intended consequence of their killing the pigs work out, the whole town came out and pleaded Him to leave. The demons had won!
This is what is so fascinating in the fact that Jesus actually said, “Go”. Surely being God he would know what this would lead to? Surely He could have anticipated their malfeasance?
But He still said “Go”
Why? Well this leaves us to the final point for tonight.
3. Jesus leaves a man behind to spread the gospel
We have to go to the Gospel of Mark to see the true implications of this story turn to Mark 5:18-20 we read;
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[a] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
The demons had through their actions mobilised the whole area against Christ. The term Decapolis means 10 towns it was the 10 cities that surrounded this area, and there was little hope of Christ having any continued work in these cities. Christ knew this. He never intended to personally preach the gospel to these 10 cities.
Rather, Jesus’ plan all along was to take this broken, possessed, pitied man, restore him by His love and send him out into the world with the same love and a simple message; Jesus came into the world to save sinners. It was through this simple broken man, and his simple message that all the peoples of the Decapolis were amazed. The gospel did its work through a broken man who was freed.
And here is the answer about who this man is church; who is Christ? He is the Son of God, He has come to destroy the work of the Devil, but he has chosen to do this through His power working through broken people!
Here is the completely insane reality of the message tonight church; there are forces in this world that are out to bring utter chaos and destruction and they are working through people, organisations systems. Christ has come into the world to destroy that work, however, He has chosen to destroy that work by broken people.
I mean out of all the people that could have been Christ’s messenger of freedom the person that would spearhead the work of Christ to free the Decapolis from spiritual darkness and oppression would be a man who muttered to himself, who lived among tombs, who was literally out of his mind because of his demonic oppression and possession.
Now, we can focus on the level of his brokenness or we can take our lesson which is the lesson of the gospel; God uses sinners, saves them, restores them through his grace and then sends them out as His power in the world.
Church, Christ wants to use you as His spearhead of his work against evil. He want you to be the mouthpiece of His good news. Not someone else, you.
The beautiful message of Scripture is that God uses people to accomplish His miraculous work! Now, was this work based on this man’s brilliance? Or his character, or his holding his life together? No! It was based on the fact that Jesus had set him free!
We go out into our world, church, with the same power! We go into the world with controlled by the same evil, deceived and twisted by the same forces that were encountered here. We don’t go on our own strength or ability or our own message. We go with the power of Christ, the same power of the man who said to the sea quite and it responded and go and the demons were forced to obey. We go in that power. With the same message this man went with; you too can be free! No matter your background, your darkness, your personal pain, there is hope for sinners, for the lost, for the tormented of this world and the hope is the Son of God came to die for Sinners!
Church, the world out there is waiting for you to stand with His message and go with His power! And He is calling you tonight to be a messenger of the gospel where you stay.