March 20, 2020

Matthew 8:28-34

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

The modern West has little room for the miraculous. Plenty of people consider themselves to be spiritual and may even make room for the supernatural to some degree. But when it comes to the specificities of the miracles recorded in the Bible the responses range from the scoffing of unbelievers to embarrassment from some believers.

However, since God exists (It defies reason for the universe to be uncreated) we live in a world that is more than merely natural. Likewise, since God is supernatural it makes perfect sense that among his works will be those which transcend the merely natural. Jesus was widely recognized not only by his followers but by his critics and secular historians as a miracle worker.

Jesus performed miracles primarily as signs pointing to his identity and mission. The miracles demonstrate that God is actively involved in his creation. This is no more powerfully demonstrated than in the incarnation, God in the flesh. The miracles also demonstrate the authority of Jesus over all realms of creation. Jesus commanded nature, healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons.

According to Scripture Satan, or the Devil was an archangel who was cast out of heaven when he rebelled against God. Along with Satan were cast down a sizeable number of angels who had joined his rebellion. These fallen angels are what are referred to as demons. It is of particular interest that in the present passage the demons instantly recognize who Jesus is and know that His presence means judgment for them. They remember Him from glory. They know His mission on earth. And they know that he is ultimately their Judge.

Descriptions of demon possession are only hinted at in the Old Testament and there are few examples of it after the Gospels.  “In the Bible [an outbreak of] demon possession seems rather to be part of the upsurge of evil opposing Jesus in the time of his incarnation” (Morris, 208). It makes sense that the coming of the Messiah into the world would be met with frequent opposition from Satan. Jesus’ encounter with demons was an important element in his ministry because of what those encounters revealed about God’s kingdom, the kingdom of this world, and the nature of Jesus’ mission.

In his encounter with the Gadarene demoniacs Jesus demonstrated his comprehensive authority. There was nothing the demons could do to manipulate Jesus or curtail his power over them. It is also clear that demons are aware that a time is coming when Jesus will judge them once and for all. It was Jesus’ death on the cross for sinners and his victorious resurrection which finally sealed the fate of the demonic powers of sin and darkness. The Apostle Paul states that through his death on the cross Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities [a reference to all opposition to Christ] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15).

In this time of crisis remember that King Jesus has not lost control of his creation. Satan is not running wild exercising dominion over the earth. He is a powerful foe, yes. But he is also a dog on a leash. He is a defeated enemy. What we see now in the wickedness that seems to prevail around the world is the death rattle of his guile and opposition to God. Praise be to God that we will not be lost; that we will not be victims of our ancient foe.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).