INTRODUCTION – refer back to early January sermon where I went through the first five months of the year, and asked prayer for matthew series and mentioned my early look at matt 8:28-34 & then encounter with young man
This morning we are going to look at one of the more unusual stories in the New Testament – – trusting that the Holy Spirit will help us not get distracted with some of the controversies or peculiarities; but instead that He will give us His heart for the demonically oppressed people around us.
It is my contention this morning that in every city and in every age there have been and there will be people who have been severely tormented and oppressed by demons. Turn with me if you would to Matthew 8:28 as we seek to learn from an incident Jesus had with two such people.
I. Jesus, Cities and Demons vs. 28-31
A. Previous Instances of Jesus’ ministry to demonized – Matt. 4:23,24 “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics,; and He healed them” now these demoniacs were obviously not as severe as the two we just read about or people wouldn’t have been able to bring them to Jesus. But they were people who were demonized in some way or another.
Similar passage in Matt. 8:16 “When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill.”
Casting out demons – – setting people free from demonic oppression and possession was something that was normal and frequent in Jesus’s ministry.
B. These two men were unable to live in normal society (“tombs”) Their behavior was extreme and violent to the point where they were outcasts. No one could have taken them anywhere. Very possible from the other accounts that they ran around naked as well.
C. Apparent discrepancies: Parallel passages = Mark 5:1-17; Luke 8:26-37
1. place : Greek manuscripts are divided on the precise location involved, citing 3 names: Gadarenes in Matt. 8; Gerasenes from Mark and Luke; and Gergesenes from Origen’s writings. Reliable textual evidence favors Gerasenes, which probably referred to the small town Gersa (modern Khersa) – located on the lake’s Eastern shore. Most of its inhabitants were Gentiles.
2. man or men – Matt. 8: 28 = two men; Mark and Luke = only mention 1 man. Mark and Luke focused on the most violent or oppressed. Neither said “there was only one”.
3. Who initiated the encounter? Matt. 8:28 “met Him”; vs. 29 – “And they cried out, saying…”
Mark 5:1-8 “for He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.”… vs. 8
Luke 8:28,29 “Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.”
Seems that the men ran towards Jesus, and as they got near Him, He began to command the demons to leave them, and the demons then responded to Jesus in fear and pleading for mercy, which He then granted them – – that is instead of causing them to be disembodied spirits – He then commanded them to enter the pigs.
II. Jesus’s Response to their plea – vs. 32 (read it)
A. 8:16 “with a word; here – “go” both times = a word, except that Mark does tell us that He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!…and Luke says, “For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.”
If you have been exposed or even involved with sessions with demonized people where there is all kinds of screaming and yelling and it goes on forever….well we just need to know that was never the way Jesus took care of it. Our authority does not come from the decibals of our voice or the intensity of our eyes. Somehow we need to be cleansed of the dramatic style we have been exposed to in movies and perhaps even in person.
III. The Consequences – vs. 32-34 (read it)
A. The demons immediately came out of the men and went into the pigs
B. The pigs (Mark says there were about 2,000 of them) rushed over the cliff into the sea and drowned
C. The herdsmen ran away to the city, reported all that they had seen
D. The whole city came out to meet Jesus, and sadly implored Him to leave their region – Luke says because of fear – possibly they were afraid of more financial loss.
E. Was Jesus mean and unjust in doing this??
Now if killing 2,000 pigs is a stumbling block to you – whether because of the supposed cruelty to the pigs or the devastating impact that would have had on the owner economically – – all I can say is the demons initiated the idea; the pigs were never a danger to the people of that region, but the men were; the pigs will not burn in hell for eternity, but the two men would have had they not met Christ, and the people who were afraid to ever go and pay their respects to their loved ones in those tombs – because of these two demonized men – – now are free to do so.
And I’m sure the two families of these two men were thrilled at the prospect of being reunited with them – now that they were clothed and in their right minds.
Finally had not the demons gone into the pigs, and the whole herd taken a swine dive, the whole city would not have been motivated to rush there and witness for themselves the miraculous transformation of these two men.
Signs and wonders do not necessarily convert; but they do attract and get people’s attention at least momentarily. Who knows what response they might have down the road when they finally connect the dots? Do you know how many people have come to Christ and been saved of their sins and brought into an eternal relationship with God because God mercifully kicked the skids out from under them, and allowed their lives to fall apart? I can promise you the owner of those pigs never forgot the sight of 2,000 pigs bobbing in the water with terrorized looks on their faces. It’s very possible every time they saw a pig from then on – they remembered this Jesus, and what He had accomplished with the two demonized men.
IV. How Followers of Jesus should respond – – what breakthrough and advance might look like in this regard?
A. First we should recognize that demons are often behind extreme behavior; and that the evil one hopes we will be put off by the extreme behavior and not go after the demons.
B. We should refrain from thinking this is a formula and that if we just say “go” – they will go. Ex. of Paul and sons of Sceva – Acts 19:11-16
Jude 8-10 “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these men revile the things which they do not understand….” Humility in this whole process is very important.
C. The presence of God is greater than the power/strength/violence/hostility of men. The more we walk in obedience to Him, and submission to the Holy Spirit, the less we will fear extreme behavior, and the better we will be able to see the demons behind the behavior.
D. Demons are scared to death of Jesus and absolutely and immediately bow and submit to His every word. Their only hope is to convince us through the extreme behavior of the people they are oppressing – that they are too much a match for us. Our only hope is that they can get beyond us – to Him. Or that He can sufficiently work through us to them. The person of Jesus is the answer for demonized people.
E. Emphasis of commentaries is – the purpose of this passage is to demonstrate Jesus’s authority over demons. I would agree that is one conviction we should come away with. Clearly Matthew in chapter 8 is demonstrating that Jesus is Lord over sickness, over our lives and work and family responsibilties, over the weather, and now over the most severe demonized cases. But another one – equally important is that this Jesus, who commanded His disciples in chapter 4 to “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” wants us to follow Him in this work of seeing the demonized set free. We must have His heart for the demonized; and His passion to see them set free. He came to set the captives free. This is already the third time in Matthew this aspect of His ministry is mentioned.
Listen – we can be absolutely theologically certain that Jesus today has authority over Satan and his demons, and not give a flip whether He sets anyone free from them – – much less avail ourselves to be His instrument to see it accomplished.
There are people in this city who like those two men are terribly oppressed and tormented – – and the best anyone has been able to do with them is prescribe mind numbing pills, and then keep their distance.
Since I began to wrestle with this passage in January some time – – there are two men in our town that I’m pretty convinced have this problem – – and He wants me/us to do something about it. Anne and I saw one of them again on Friday, after not seeing him for a while and wondering if he had been put in Juvenile hall or something. The other one I haven’t seen for a couple of months. I try to speak to this young man every time I see him, and trust that in time I will have the opportunity to sit down with him. Some of our young men have already had one opportunity to do so. And that leads me to my next point – –
F. I’m sensing in these days that the model Jesus is looking for is more of a corporate model of seeing demonized people set free. I believe we will see breakthrough and advance when we first get up the spiritual nerve to accept God’s call to pursue a person that we would rather ignore and stay away from. And then second when we get up even more spiritual nerve to ask a close friend or two to join with me in praying for this person until he or she is set free. “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” Ecc. 4:9
CONCLUSION – Strategic Prayer Requests from Matthew 8:28-34
1. That the body of Christ in this Coastal Region will grow in compassion for the demonized.
2. That the body of Christ in this Coastal Region will be quicker to see the demons behind the extreme behavior.
3. That the body of Christ in this Coastal Region will work together to see these oppressed people set free.
4. That the body of Christ in this Coastal Region will grow in confidence in our authority in Christ to cast out demons.
5. That the body of Christ in this Coastal Region will grow in obedience to get our hands dirty with the oppressed and demonized.
6. That the body of Christ in this Coastal Region will grow in Christ likeness in the way we pursue this and avoid immature, fleshly/naïve practices.