The Demon-Possessed Men

28When He arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met Him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

30Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs."

32He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region.

In the previous section, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brought calm to the storm. In this section, He brings peace to raging, demon-possessed men: "When He arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met Him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’ Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water" (vss. 28–32). The first thing to note concerning this passage is that demon-possession is real. Demons are real. They are depicted in the Bible as nothing but real. They are constantly working against God, and against us.

In this passage, demons had possessed two men, causing them to act violently so "that no one could pass that way" (vs. 28). Their possession of the two men was so complete that the demons themselves spoke through the men. When they saw Jesus, they shouted: "What do you want with us, Son of God?… Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (vs. 29). These questions from the demons to Jesus are fraught with implications about the spirit world. First, the demons knew and acknowledged who Jesus was. They called Him "Son of God". They knew that Jesus was more than just an itinerant preacher of the Word of God. They knew He had power over them. They also knew that eventually, at "the appointed time", Jesus would "torture" them. All this implies that Jesus was pre-existent to the time He walked on earth, and that He was well-known in the spirit world.

It also implies that demons know about their ultimate fate. There is an "appointed time" for them, when they will be "tortured". Jude speaks of this: "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day" (Jude 6). Then, we learn in Revelation that, after the millennial reign, "the devil, who deceived [God’s people], was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10).

But the demons knew that their "appointed time" to be "tortured" had not yet come. They knew that God, for a time, was allowing them to do their evil work on earth. Nevertheless, they knew that Jesus had power over them, and that Jesus’ ministry on earth was special. They also most likely knew that Jesus healed all the sick and demon-possessed that He came in contact with. Thus, the demons knew that Jesus would heal the men they were possessing. So, "the demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs’" (vs. 31). "Devils would sooner dwell inside swine than be in the presence of Jesus" [Spurgeon, 96]. Apparently, the people in the area raised pigs. We can imply from this one of two things: Either the area was a Gentile area, or the Jews in the area were in disobedience to the law, for it was illegal according to the law for Jews to raise pigs (see Lev. 11:7).

Jesus’ primary concern was for the well-being of the men. He did not show that same concern for the pigs. The pigs were secondary. He allowed the demons to do with the pigs what they would: "He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water" (vs. 32). Now, pigs hate water, so we can assume that the demons drove them into the lake. The destructive desire of the demons not only operated upon the men, but also on the pigs. By the way, the destruction of the pigs by the demons demonstrates that the malady of the two men was not some psychological disorder, but was an actual case of demon-possession. When the demons left the men, the men were healed. That the demons left the men was demonstrated by the fact that they went into the pigs and destroyed them.

A possible motive for the demons’ destruction of the pigs (other than their inherent desire to destroy all that they come in contact with) was to turn the townspeople against Jesus. In this, the demons succeeded: "Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region" (vss. 33–34). How could people, who saw a demonstration of Jesus’ power over evil, beseech Him to leave? The reaction of the people showed that they were willing to endure the presence of demons in their area, as long as their money-making opportunities were not disturbed in any way. Should not the people rather have rejoiced that the demon-possessed men were now delivered? They would no longer terrorize the area. They would now be productive citizens.

Then also, was not their blame misplaced? The townspeople incorrectly blamed Jesus for the destruction of the pigs. It was not Jesus who destroyed the pigs, it was the demons. Why are we so quick to blame the Lord for the devil’s work? And would not the departure of Jesus from their area increase the chance that demons would be destructive in their area?

There is some irony in the way that Matthew describes the town’s reaction. He says: "Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus." After reading this sentence, we would naturally assume that the town went out to worship Him. What a blessing! A whole town coming out to meet Jesus. But then we read: "And when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region." How sad. "A rare occurrence—a whole city meeting Jesus, and that city unanimous in their appeal to Him. Alas, it was the unanimity of evil! Here was a whole city at a prayer meeting, praying against their own blessing… What a mercy that our Lord does not hear every prayer of this sort!" [Spurgeon, 98].

 

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