Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Will You Respond? - Matthew 8:28-9:8

Demons in the Pig Pen

28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs.  They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.

29 And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God?  Have You come here to torment us before the time?"

30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them.

31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine."

32 And He said to them, "Go!"  And they came down and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters.

33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demonaics.

34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

Okay, so these two demon-possessed men are coming out of the tombs...does that mean that the demons are reanimating corpses?  In this case, the answer is, very fortunately, no.  Mark 5:2-3 clarifies that these men were living in the wild where the tombs were.  So, they were'nt undead, but it's still a vivid picture of how Satan's kingdom is one of death. 

One more quick clarification - Matthew says there were two demon-possessed men here, but when the story is told in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39, only one man is mentioned.  Is this a contradiction?  No.  If there were two men there, it's also true that one man was there.  Mark and Luke just chose to focus in on one of the men, seemingly the one who was in much worse condition since he had more demons in him.

"They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way."  Here's what impresses me: Jesus wasn't scared of them at all.  Here they were, lashing out a people with super-strength (see the above hyperlinks to the passages in Mark and Luke), but Jesus walks right up to them.  Why?  Because He knows He has no reason to fear them since God had given Him authority over them.  Did you know that we have the same authority?  Mark 16:17 tells us, "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues..." and Luke 10:19-20 reads, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."  I realize that, as someone who has never cast out a demon or even seen someone acting "demon-y," this is easy for me to say.  But the Word of God still stands: we as believers do not need to fear.

Now, people teach verses 29-32 in a lot of different ways.  ***This is just my take on it.***  What the demons fear is being sent straight to hell instead of being allowed to roam the earth (Luke 8:31 puts this bluntly).  Interesting that they fully acknowledge their power and authority of God (also see James 2:19), yet they're still clearly unrepentant - I mean, they were just causing trouble by possessing a guy!  How often do we make the same error - believing in God, yet refusing to repent and live for Him?  Belief isn't enough - He wants a relationship.  Check out this post for more on that.

But back to what's going on with the demons entering the swine.  I see two possible scenarios.  (1) The demons want to cause trouble by killing the pigs so the people will chase Jesus out of town.  It seems ridiculous that demons would be stupid enough to think that they can pull one over on the God who can force them to act with one word...yet isn't that Satan's entire game plan?  If this scenario is what's going on, then having to leave town is within God's will for Jesus.  (2) Jesus intends to send them into the abyss, anyway, since the sea is thought to be some sort of extra demonic realm (see Revelation 20:13).  This demonstrates His ultimate power over them.  In this case, too, having to leave town is part of His plan.

Now let's look at the people's reaction to this event.  Luke 8:35 tells us, "The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened."  They could have feared any number of things, including His power, the loss of more of their material possessions, and a riot.  They allowed fear to prevent them from caring about these men who were freed from possession and from seeking God's salvation.

Healing a Paralytic: Everybody's Surprised

1 Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city.

2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes."

4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?

5 "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'?

6 "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home."

7 And he got up and went home.

8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

You may be familiar with the longer account of this healing in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 - it's the one where the paralytic's friends lower him through the ceiling to get to Jesus because they can't make it through the crowds.  Now, why does Mark identify this as taking place in Capernaum, since Matthew says it's Jesus's own city...wouldn't that be Nazareth or Bethlehem?  Actually, Jesus made Capernaum his sort of "base of operations."
One thing I find amazing about this story is that Jesus saw their faith...this means He saw the friends' faith, as well.  They had so much faith in Jesus's power to heal their friend, and so much love for their friend, that they were willing even to tear the roof of this house - knowing that they would likely get yelled at for doing so and have to pay for/do the repairs themselves.  Also, in none of these accounts does the homeowner get angry with them.  It is possible that he did and the Bible just doesn't mention it, but judging by the fact hta the was willing to let all these people congregate in his home to see Jesus, I'd wager that he didn't mind.  Talk about amazing compassion for a stranger!  This is a beautiful example for us.

I love the order in which Jesus responds.  He heals the man's soul first - because that is indeed His first priority, and the most important thing.  But He also has mercy on the man's physical condition, as well as takes the opportunity to prove His power (gotta love that spunk).  How often do we ask God to fix things in our lives, but not in our hearts and souls?  We know what His priority is...what is ours?

Finally, let's look at everyone's reactions.  The scribes: They reject Him - He threatens the status quo and their station among the people.  He shakes things up in their lives, and they don't like thatThe crowds: They rejoice!  They praise God for His mighty works and for dwelling with them.  The paralytic: This one is my favorite. :-)  He obeys perfectly.  God has blessed him tremendously, but rather than using that blessing to do whatever he wants, he uses it to do exactly what God wants him to use it for.  How will you react today - like a scribe, or like the paralytic?

The Ultimate Response

We've talked a lot today about people's reactions to Jesus.  What is yours?  If you have not ever entered into a relationship with Jesus, now is the time to do so - do not delay!!!  Click here or the "How to Receive Salvation" tab above to find out how.

He's waiting for you - what's your answer?

Questions for You

Do you see the story of the demonaic differently (there are many takes; share yours!)?  How have you responded in the past when God blessing someone else required something of you, whether it be time or something material (like the herd and roof)?  Share these, and any other questions and comments, by leaving a comment. :-)

Giving Credit Where It's Due

Picture Number One: Medieval manuscript illumination, Christ Exorcising the Gerasenes Demonaic.  Wikimedia Commons.  {{PD-1923}} Public domain in the United States.  {{PD-old}} Public domain in European Union.

Picture Number Two: Christ Healing the Paralytic at Capernaum by Bernhard Rode.  Wikimedia Commons.  {{PD-1923}} Public domain in the United States.{{PD-old}} Public domain in Germany.

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