Matthew 8:28-34

When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs.

Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood. Matthew 8:28-34

Jesus and his disciples have now crossed the Sea of Galilee, landing on the shores of the Gadarenes. We have all heard of this area – the Golan Heights – now held under Israeli control after the Six Day War in 1967. In Jesus’ day, it was Gentile territory. He didn’t belong there and had no good reason to go there. Except to do some good.

Mark (Mark 5:1-20) and Luke (Luke 8:26-39) also tell this story but Matthew shortens its telling and adds emphasis by telling us that there were two possessed men, not just one, living among the tombs. This little detail adds authority to the story because Matthew’s Jewish readers always assumed that it takes two witnesses to establish truth (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15.)

Surprisingly, these demoniacs immediately recognize Jesus as the “Son of God.” Unlike the Jewish religious leaders, the demons troubling a couple of outcast Gentiles see Jesus for who he is. But just like those same leaders, the demons recognize Jesus as a threat to their power. Here is where the story takes a surprising twist.

The demons ask Jesus that he cast them into a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus does what they ask. What’s up with that? For Jews, pigs were unclean and forbidden. For Gentiles, they were bacon for breakfast and ham for dinner. For Jewish readers, Jesus killed two birds with one stone. For the local villagers, Jesus destroyed their cash crop. In the end, Jesus isn’t welcome in either place. He can’t win for losing.

Except for the healed one(s). In Mark and Luke, the healed man wants to leave with Jesus but Jesus tells him to stay at home and tell others what had happened. In Matthew, the whole village shows up to kick Jesus out of town.

Most of us realize that we care a whole lot more about what the neighbors think than we do what God thinks. We’re fine with giving Jesus our lives….as long as he keeps his fingers off our livelihoods. We follow the Golden Rule as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with the gold that rules.

Do we believe that Jesus can help people? That Jesus can heal what’s broken? Do we believe that Jesus shows up in the most surprising ways, amongst the most surprising people, to do the most surprising things? Sure, we believe that. Maybe it’s just that we are too slow to recognize that we just might be that person, and now might be the time, when we’re the ones who need healing. Do we welcome Jesus then or do we send him packing?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, so many people live their lives in the deadly grip of things that only desire their death. Mental illness, physical illness, addictions, possessed by possessions – so many powers drive us away from the wholeness and peace you would give us. Don’t lose faith in us. Keep coming at us. Don’t let us drive you out of our neighborhood. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Matthew 8:28-34”

  1. Matthew 8:28-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The Demon-possessed of the Gadarenes | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten Says:

    […] Matthew 8:28-34 […]

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