The Kings Authority Over Evil
“And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.” Matthew 8:28-34 (KJV)
We have seen Jesus the King as He has dealt with physical ailments, sicknesses, diseases, and our infirmities. We have seen Him deal with the storm which came up at sea which could, itself, have been generated by supernatural means, through the demons we see in our text. It is only my supposition to think it was of supernatural means, and I think a good supposition due to the fear of the four fishermen who were on the boat of the previous verses. If it was not supernatural, then, it was one of the fiercest storms they had ever encountered.
In this passage of Scripture we see our King dealing with the hordes of hell. There are many who see demons in every ailment or problem which befalls mankind. Some call liquor, “Demon alcohol” or something equivalent. Not to long ago there was a celebrity “preaching” couple and the husband had beaten the wife, and he said, “The devil made me do it”. We must admit there is evil in the world, and demons are probably a motivating factor behind a lot of it, but they only inhabit bodies of human beings who have opened their lives to them. That is probably the case with these two men.
It is my fear that there are many people today who are demon possessed and receiving psychological or psychiatric counselling that will not do them a bit of good. They may calm down, put on an apparent new behavior, but still be under the control of demons. We see a progression of Jesus’s power in this chapter. Ailments, sicknesses, diseases, infirmities, storms, then, the spiritual realm.
All power has been given unto Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. All power means over everything in, on, and under the earth, and all that is in heaven.
There are some who have supposed a couple of problems with this passage. The first one being the location. Matthew calls the land Gergesenes, and Mark, and Luke calls it the country of the Gadarenes. The following is the writing of John Gill,
“into the country of Gergesenes, the same with the Girgashites, Gen_15:21 whom Joshua drove out of the land of Canaan; and who, as a Jewish writer (l) says, left their country to the Israelites, and went to a country, which is called to this day, גורגיסטאן, “Gurgestan”, of which these people were some remains: both in Mar_5:1 it is called “the country of the Gadarenes”; and so the Syriac and Persic versions read it here; which is easily reconciled by observing, not that Gergesa and Gadara were one and the same city, called by different names; but that these two cities were near each other, in the same country, which was sometimes denominated from the one, and sometimes from the other. Origen (m) has a remarkable passage, showing the different situations of Gadara and Gergesa; and that the latter cannot be Gerasa in Arabia; and also the signification of the name, for the sake of which, I shall transcribe it.
“Gerasa (says he) is a city of Arabia, having neither sea nor lake near it; wherefore the evangelists, who well knew the countries about Judea, would never have said so manifest an untruth: and as to what we find in some few copies, “into the country of the Gadarenes”, it must be said, that Gadara indeed was a city of Judea, about which were many famous baths; but there was no lake, or sea in it, adjacent with precipices; but Gergesa, from whence were the Gergasenes, is an ancient city about the lake; now called Tiberias; about which is a precipice adjacent to the lake, from whence is shown, that the swine were cast down by the devils. Gergesa is interpreted, παροικιαεκβεβληκοτων, “the habitation of those that cast out”; being called so perhaps prophetically, for what the inhabitants of those places did to the Saviour, beseeching him to depart out of their coasts.”” From the e-Sword version.
The second problem some see is in Matthew’s version we have two people. The gospels of both Mark and Luke mention only one. There is a good reason for this and one is that one of these demon possessed people was more fierce and vile than the other, and He is the one to whom Jesus Spoke. According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, “And some think, these two were man and wife, because the Evangelists speak but of one” p. 112, VOL. V.
Remember the storm that arose at sea? Could it have been brought about by the “prince of the power of the air” trying to prevent the Prince of peace from getting ashore to give peace to these two tormented souls? We do need to remember even if this is so the devil has no power or authority except that which God allows. Even then, it is to display His glory.
As soon as Jesus is ashore the two possessed by the demons approach Jesus fully recognizing Him (v. 29). The other writers of this event tell us these two; at least one of them anyway; were uncontrollable; “chains had been plucked asunder… fetters broken in pieces…” (Mark 5:4). Luke confirms that these dwelt among the tombs (Luke 8:27). They are quickly identified as being closely associated with the buried dead – “coming out of the tombs”. The demons upon seeing Him are humbled before Him. People who came around this area always went around the area, for fear of these two demon possessed individuals. Matthew even calls them “exceeding fierce”. The English Standard Version says, “so fierce that no one could pass that way”. It was a dangerous matter to go by these tombs with these two there. One’s life could be in jeopardy by doing so.
To describe demon possession goes beyond human thought. An individual who is possessed by a demon or demons; as in this case; is under the control of a supernatural entity or entities. When the person speaks under the influence of the demon, the voice may be rough, angry, coarse, loud, arrogant, hateful, hollow. The physical strength of this individual would far exceed normalcy for a human being. The eyes would be distant, bloodshot, empty, cold, and hateful. Sometimes demon possession may be from the use of drugs. It always comes about because the person has opened their heart and mind to a power greater than themselves, except to God.
These demons are really nothing more than fallen angels. They are angelic beings who joined Lucifer in the rebellion of heaven, and were cast out. All the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had to do to cast the evil one from heaven was speak the Word, and it was done. We can see that rebellion in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:13-19. Being the eternal beings that they are, ie., eternal from the time of their creation; they would recognize their Creator. They came to meet the Master, their Ruler and Judge, with humility. These are all condemned for all time and all eternity. They are bound to the fires of eternal judgment (Jude 6). They are concerned that the Lord may be come to judge them before their time has come, and to cast them into the eternal fires.
There is probably a tone of resentment in their question, “What have we to do with Thee…? Though they had been thrown out of heaven, though they may have shown some humility in recognizing Him, they still despise Him.
The only possible reason for the swine being mentioned in this story is probably that the people who were breeding hogs were Jewish. Thus, they were doing so illegally against the Mosaic Law. THE LIBERTY COMMENTARY states:
“This is Jesus’ only recorded miracle that was destructive in nature. The fact that Jesus granted the demons’ request was because of His concern for the man. The spiritual principle in this incident is that those who are deliberately disobedient (as was the case of the pig-breeders) deprive themselves of devine protection and place themselves at the mercy of the forces of evil. Certainly, losing the herd of pigs, which was unlawful in the first place, was insignificant when compared to the man’s gaining his spiritual health.” p. 1906.
Jesus had only to speak one word. That word was “Go.” He granted their request. It was only a delay in judgment. Their judgment would yet come some time in the future. The time unknown to them. We are told in Matthew of “an herd of many swine”, however Mark’s gospel tells us “(they were about two thousand)”. In the economy of that day this would have been great economic loss for these Jewish “pig-breeders”. The fact that these pigs are even mentioned, and that Jesus used them for deliverance of the couple, should show us that these swine were the herd of Jewish people. These swine ran down this steep place into the Sea of Galilee and all drowned. What happened to the demons? Only God knows the answer to that.
Jesus had just delivered two individuals – human beings – from bondage of supernatural spirit beings. The pork was now of no use to anyone. They were all drowned. The Jewish owners were now free from their disobedient living; if only they would follow the Savior. Instead, they are angry over the loss of their living. They are completely unconcerned with the two being set free from Satan’s bondage. The pig herders having seen what happened to the herd ran to tell the owners. They even told them of the deliverance of the two demon possessed people.
The whole city came out to meet Jesus. There was much curiosity. Rather than bowing before Him and giving Him glory and praise they ask Him to leave. Rather than inviting Him home with them; they do not want Him around. They are more consumed with the wealth they lost, and what other things that might be discarded should He come to their town.
The story here is of the deliverance of two people. There is no need for ritual in delivering people from the bondage of the devil. Only the need for Jesus. We give people Jesus when we proclaim the gospel. When an individual is given the gospel and believes no demon can stay around. They must flee when Jesus comes in and possesses the individual. Evil and God cannot possess the same vessel. When Jesus is present do you want Him to stay?