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Bible Study Notes

Matthew 8: 28-34

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Two Demon-Possessed Men Healed

Two Demon-Possessed Men Healed

General Idea: Here is a picture of our Lord, who rescues us. He just went through a storm to cross a sea most would not dare to tread, to a place few would ever go, to see two people who needed His help. One would reject Him and one would beg to go with Him, while the community who rejected these two people also rejected Christ, and demanded His departure, as they valued pigs over people, money over eternity. This passage stresses the point that Jesus is no mere man; He is divine. Even the demons testify to this!

This is a strange story from a godly perspective, as the people who should have marveled at Jesus' ability to heal two people whom they had given up on, saw a divine miracle preformed before them, and benefited by being saved from the torment of the demons, only to demand that He leave. Yet, so many of us do the same thing every day. We may know of the Lord, even experienced His grace, maybe even have served Him for a time, yet, we too, ask Him to go away. We sometimes do not allow Him in all parts and times of our lives. Maybe we let Him in just on Sunday morning, but not on Monday, and definitely not on Friday nights. So, do you ask Jesus to leave, or allow Him to endear and embrace you?
1.   To the other side, this country, is also recorded in Mark and Luke as Gergesenes and the Gadarenes region, which is between eight and 30 miles from the midpoint of the Sea of Galilee's eastern shore. It is lined with old tombs and cliffs (Mark 5:1-4; Luke 8:26-33).
a.   The population was mostly Gentile, hence the pigs. Jews would never eat pork, for it is unclean (the diseases it contained), and the law forbade it. If they who owned the pigs were Jews, their destruction would have been a just reward! (Pork did not become safe to eat until the twentieth century, mostly due to safer techniques and conditions in raising them, and the ability to better inspect the meat.  Orthodox Jews still do not eat it as part of the kosher diet.)
b.   The Jews considered tombs unclean, and would not go near them. If they did, they had to go through a purification ritual; this prevented the spreading of disease.
c.   The possessed people hung out near tombs, but not for scary reasons as you have seen in movies. Rather, they did it to get free food, as pagans brought food to offer for their dead loved ones. Then they sacred people away so they could keep the food for themselves.
2.   Two demon possessed men.  Mark and Luke focus only on one of these men, possibly one who was violent and had the worst infestation. The other possibility is that the other Gospel writers had more knowledge in details that Matthew did not use, and Matthew knew more about this second person, or he added him in because he was left out before. (Remember each gospel will focus on the events pertaining to their audience needs (See Matthew Background Material), thus Mark and Luke add events that Matthew does not record. These are not contradictions; rather, extra information given to their audiences for their better understanding, and for us to have a bigger picture account of what was happening, as one witness is not as good as three.) Matthew was concerned that two witnesses added to Jesus' testimony to His Jewish audience.
a.   What have we to do with you basically means, this is none of your business--go away!
b.   Mark adds that the time is night (Mark 4:35), when demon activity is considered at its height, and when they exercised their greatest power.
                                                  i.   Violence is often associated with demon possession (see theological note below).
                                                ii.     Cutting with stones was a practice meant to catch the attention of deities, so as to gain its favor and strength (1 Kings 18:28; Mark 5:3-5). This is still practiced today.
                                              iii.      To ask the name of a spirit was to gain its attention and overpower it.
                                               iv.      A legion was a Roman company of four thousand soldiers. This reference means that this man was possessed by a great many demons.
c.   Luke adds that the freed man wanted to go with Jesus, but He says to him, return home and tell no one (Luke 8:26-39). We can see by this how people wanted miracles and not salvation. In addition, people misunderstood and misinterpreted the reason He was among them, especially in a non-Jewish region. They only saw Him as a magician and fascinated by what they saw as entertainment, thus they had no desire to get the Word out about the Gospel.
3.   Son of God, is a title for Jesus, and refers to His kingship as the Anointed King. In the OT, an anointed king was called a Son of God (2 Sam. 7: 11-15; Psalm 2:7; 45:6; 89:27). The term expresses the special relationship they had with God, they who had privilege to His promises to maintain David's throne. His responsibility, as the son of God, was to receive the throne and rule in God's name as His authorized representative (Matt. 1:1; Mark 1:11; Heb. 1:5).
a.   To an extent, all of Israel was called the sons of God, referring to the promise He had given them which Jesus fulfills as the history of redemption comes to culmination as all points converge at the cross (Ex. 4:22; Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15).
                                                  i.   This title refers to Jesus' unique position with God the Father while He was on the earth (Matt. 3:17; 11:27; 17:5; 21:38).
                                                ii.     In pagan literature, Son of God usually referred to a king's son or a special person appointed as his representative.
                                              iii.     Jesus Christ fulfilled this promise, as He became this title's ultimate satisfaction!
b.   Because what Christ has done for us, this title shows God's special and unfailing favor being poured out to us. This favor is His love, kindness, and mercy as promised in the OT and fulfilled here in the NT. This title also summarizes all that God promised to Israel (Duet. 7:9, 12; 2 Sam. 7:15; Isa. 55:3; Psalm 6:4; 89:24, 28, 33).
c.   Before the time, refers to the Day of Judgment, which had not come yet. So, the demons were protesting that fact that Jesus could destroy them, but it was not time yet (Jude 6; Rev. 20:10). At the same time, Jesus was demonstrating that the powers of darkness could be fought, even overcome.
d.  The demons begged Jesus not to vanquish them, as in pagan literature they liked to negotiate the least difficult terms to their favor, just as attorneys do today (I am not saying this as a "put down," but as an example).
4.   Entered into the pigs. Demons hate God's creation, and know that pigs are unclean animals. It was a request to exercise their rebellion and distaste for all that is righteous. In other Bible passages, demons would prefer to exercise their rage by being violent, as these two men were before (Matt. 17:14-20). They also knew the value of stock animals, which meant then, as they do today, big money. Thus, they desired to shift the people away from Jesus, as people will focus on profit over goodness. Jesus allowed their request even though it came from evil motives.
a.   Jesus knew what the pigs would do which was to become cliff sausage. The livelihood of the pig owners would be affected. But, God is the ultimate owner, just us as Jesus demonstrated in that previous passage (Matt. 8:23-27).
b.   This event also exposed the real values of the people, and where their hearts were.
c.   In the first century, people who could drive out demons were sorcerers who tended to be malevolent. Thus, this could have also contributed to their dislike of Jesus. However, if they really looked at His character, they would have seen nothing of the malevolent in Him. They preferred pigs above people, and swine above a Savior!
            How sad it is that as the demons cried out "this is none of your business," we too make such heinous proclamations to the very Lord who crossed a storm to redeem us! He who bridged the gap of sin we could never cross, paved the Way for our salvation and sanctification. He allows us to remain in the boat with Him, even calling us to go with Him.
            Do not fall into compliancy and arrogance, seeing no need for our Lord, ignoring His call to you, thinking you are all right, because if you are honest, you are not all right! Do not allow yourself to be filled with so much busyness that you have no time for Him! Do not be like the village people who saw the pigs as of more value than people. If you say, "Well, I have no pigs." consider that you do in the way of what is of value to you. Does it line up with His values and call? What about your career--even ministry? Is it more important than your growth in Christ, so your real service of building quality relationships gets pushed aside? Jesus will not force Himself upon you, as He did not with those village people. The call is given. Your sin has been covered. It is up to you to now follow!
1.   Do you like to watch horror films? If so, how have they influenced your belief system about demons? How do your thoughts line up with Scriptures?
2.   How does knowing our Lord went through a storm to rescue us, strengthen your faith and trust in Him?
3.   Why would the people not have marveled at Jesus' ability to heal these two people?
4.   Consider that they have benefited by being saved from the torment of the demons, only to demand that He leave. Yet, so many of us do the same thing every day. Can you list the instances that you have asked Jesus to leave? Why did you? What was at stake? How does you feel knowing that our Lord still loves you and still seeks you?
5.   What are the things that cause us not to allow Jesus in all parts and times of our lives?
6.   Do you wonder why there were pigs in Israel?
7.   The possessed people hung out near tombs, but not for scary reasons as you have seen in movies, but rather for free food. Does this image take the fright away from your view of cemeteries? Why, or why not?
8.   A lot of the OT Laws were for purification to prevent the spread of diseases that science did not catch up to until the twentieth century. Thus, God's law kept the Jews very healthy. They had long life spans and were free from scourges such as plagues, when they wiped out millions of others over the centuries. How does this fact affect your faith and trust in His Word?
9.   Have you considered that the four Gospels give a bigger picture account of what was happening than if there were just one, written from only one perspective?
10. Do you think there are contractions in the Bible? If so, can you name one? If you do think you found one, make sure you look at the context.
11. How have you seen people proclaiming in the church, "None of your business Jesus! Go away?"
12. Luke adds that the freed man wanted to go with Jesus, but He said to him, return home and tell no one. Why did Jesus say that? Do you have confidence that He will never tell you that?
13. The term, Son of God, in the OT, was a form of responsibility to receive the throne and rule in God's name as His authorized representative. How is this similar to what God calls us to? How are you His representative? How can you be better at it?
14. How does it make you feel to know that you, as a Christian, have a special relationship with God and are privilege to promises from Him that even Moses and Abraham did not have?
15. Because what Christ has done for you, God's special and unfailing favor is being poured out to you. This favor is His love, kindness, and mercy. How have you accepted these, and put them into your life as well as the lives of others? 
16. Jesus was demonstrating that the powers of darkness could be fought and even overcome. What would you do if you were confronted by a demon--either directly or indirectly?
17. The fact is that most people like to negotiate the least difficult terms to their favor, just as attorneys do, as a profession. Is this a part of our sinful nature, since this is how demons operate? Or, is it a natural function we can use?
18. We can see why secular people think this way, but why would some Christians be more concerned with financial profit over spiritual growth?
19. Why would Jesus grant the demons their desire, yet allow the people's livelihood in farm animals be destroyed?
20. Think through one thing you desire to be freed from, such as doubt, oppression, worry, or physical limitations. What can Jesus do for you? What do you need to do to make it work?
Theological Thoughts about "Demons"
Demons (Mark 1:21-28; Luke 10:17-20; 11:14-26; 1 Corinthians 10:14-24; 1 John 4:1-6) are supernatural beings that are almost immortal, and were created many eons ago before the Fall (Isaiah 14:12-14; Daniel 10:13; Ezekiel 28:12-15(the OT passages are figurative); John 12:31; Eph. 6:12; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). The word for Demons (daimon/daimonia) is from the Greek, a broad term meaning spiritual beings or small gods (Acts 17:18). Elsewhere in the NT, the word for demons refer to evil spirits (Matt 8:16; Luke 10:17, 20; Matt 17:18 Mark 9:25).  They were once angels. A third of them sought pride and rebellion against God, so they joined with Satan to fight God. They lost and fell from their state of grace, thus becoming demons. They are basically fallen angels who are totally depraved (evil) in contrast to the angels who are still in a state of harmony with God and grace, and who are also sinless because they did not fall with Satan.
Satan and his demons have an incorporeal nature meaning they are immaterial-- having no physicality, such as a body (Eph. 2:2; 6:12; Rev 16:14).  Since they are purely spiritual, they do not have to function in our corporeal (material reality) realm.
There are two classes of demons, those who are free to roam the earth and harass people (Eph. 2:2; 6:11-12; Col. 1:13), and those who are imprisoned in the temporary prison of the abyss (Luke 8:31; Rev 9:1-11; 20:1-3). They will be judged at the Day of Judgment (Matt. 8:29, 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). They will be punished (Matt. 8:29; 25:41; Luke 8:28; 2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6; Rev 12:7-9). They know they are doomed to destruction (Matt 8:29). Their final fate will be the lake of fire (Matt 25:41), the eternal dwelling of Satan, demons, and all unsaved people.
They are adversaries of humanity (Matt. 12:45), sent to cause trouble between peoples, destroying relationships, and causing us to fall away from God (Judges 9:23). Even they know that they are doomed, so they spend all of their energies seeking to destroy humanity and God's reputation, to take as many with them as possible.
They seek to corrupt us with false doctrine (1 Kings 22:21-231; Tim 4:1-5), and obscure the truth of who Christ is (James 2:19; 1 John 4:1-3;). They can affect people, including Christians, morally and mentally (Luke 8:27; 2 Tim 3:1-9; Rev 9:20-21; 16:13), and effect non-Christians physically with maladies such as blindness (Matt 12:22), insanity (Luke 8:26-36), stupidity (Matt 9:32-33), and suicidal tendencies (Mark 9:22). However, as Christians, we can be harassed but not possessed (1 John 4:4). 
They also possess supernatural knowledge that we do not have access to. They know firsthand about redemption and Christ (Mark 1:24), but reject it. We do not have firsthand knowledge, but by faith we receive it. They can influence people with their knowledge, and convince people they know the future, which they do not. They can only make good presumptions. They can make their victims exhibit superhuman physical strength (Luke 8:29). They are invisible and are not limited to anything physical such as walls or people. However, they may assume, or appear in human form (2 Kings 2:11; 6:17; Rev 9:1-12; 16:13-16).
They operate by being shrewd. The demons in Matthew, chapter 8, begged Jesus not to vanquish them. In pagan literature, they liked to negotiate the least difficult terms to their favor, just as attorneys do today (I am not saying this as a "put down," but as an example).
The demons recognized Jesus for who He is in power and position, and they are one of the greatest testimonies to the deity of Jesus (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:23-24; 3:11; 5:7; Luke 8:28; Acts 19:15). They have belief but not faith! In Matthew 8:28-34, they responded to Jesus with hate, tempered with fear. They knew who He was, and they knew their fate to come in judgment and destruction.
The corrupt Canaanites and other evil people groups would worship them: (Lev. 17:7; Duet. 32:17; 2 Chron. 11:15; Psalm 106:37; Matt. 4:9; Luke 4:7; 1 Cor. 10:20-21; 1Tim. 4:1; Rev. 13:4). This worship of demons and anything that is not God is strictly forbidden and will destroy us: (Lev. 17:7; Zech. 13:2; Rev. 9:20).
Instances of people being possessed or affected include Saul, (1Sam. 16:14-23; 18:10-11; 19:9-10), two demon possessed men (Mt 8:28-34; Mk 5:2-20), the disabled (Matt. 9:32-33; 12:22; Luke 11:14), and Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9; Luke 8:2-3). Other instances are found in Matt. 9:17-27; 15:22-29; 17:14-18; Mark 1:23-26; 7:25-30; Luke 4:33-35; and 9:37-42.
Even Jesus was falsely accused of being possessed by demons in Mark 3:22-30; John 7:20; 8:48; and 10:20.
There are Instances of people being exorcised by Jesus (Matt. 4:24; 8:16; Mark 3:22; Luke 4:41), and by the disciples (Matt. 10:1; Mark 6:7; 9:38; 16:17; Luke 10:17; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18; 19:12-16). Examples of the disciples inability to drive out demons are found in Mk 9:18, 28-29.
If you take the Bible seriously, you also must take into account the veracity and reality of demons! They are not figurines of a bygone belief system, which is what they want you to think. They are real, and are after you! The comfort we have is that He (Jesus) that is in us is greater than he (Satan) that is in the world, so they cannot do anything to you not allowed by God. At the same time, we are called to stand firm against them (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10-18; Col. 2:15; 1 John 4:4). Please see our article on the "Names of Satan" for more information.  
© 2003 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries 

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