Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 8:28c “. . .exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.”
Yielding to evil made these men mean and malicious. All their kinder instincts had grown extinct. When people can’t get along, be assured the devil is somewhere in the mix. Anger, hostility, bitterness, and revenge are tell-tale signs Jesus is nowhere near. Love is the characteristic God brings to interpersonal dealings. Jesus seeks to calm relationships. Following Him can cause division, but only because an evil usurping enemy opposes Christ’s lawful and legitimate role.
A heart empty of God is so full of self that it has trouble making room for others. Sin is selfishness personified. It made these two demoniacs so self-centered that they didn’t want to be around anyone, and no one wanted to be near them. Their life was solitary. Their own frenzy had driven them away from people. Having been given a wide berth by the local citizens, the two had free run of the neighborhood. Sin, being self-centered, makes people cold, calculated, and distant. It engenders anti-social tendencies and breaks up homes and friendships.
The dilapidated tombs where these two dwelt weren’t nearly as sad as their dilapidated lives, isolated, shattered, and cast down by sin. All feared them, and shunned them as dangerous. Their whole existence was pathetic, pathos incarnate.
Nobody pitied them. Nobody helped them. Nobody wanted to go near them. Wait! I have spoken wrong. Nobody, except Jesus, pitied them. Nobody, except Jesus, helped them. Nobody, except Jesus, wanted to go near them.
Jesus was fearless, going where no one else would go. Christ was no more afraid of these demoniacs than He had been of the storm at sea. He worked with the dangerous. He walked among mean people oppressed by evil.
Jesus was compassionate, loving people no one else cared for. He dealt with the embarrassing, the uncomfortable, the unpleasant. A church following His example will never go out of existence. If we go where He wants to go He will keep us in business so that He can continue to go there. In our city, where are the sickest, meanest, most battered and abused, most avoided? Find them, touch them, help them, and you will hear in the background the shuffling of Nazarene sandals.
The two men’s problem was obvious; they had yielded to demons. Unfortunately, no one knew how to deal with it, except Jesus, who now confronts the irritation head on. Two cosmic worlds are about to collide on a Gergesene lakeside.
Matt. 8:29a “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with
thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?. . .”
Hit with panic, the demons shrieked. The terrorizers were terrorized. They sensed in the presence of Jesus an almighty power they had come to know in their other world. They immediately recognized Christ as their omnipotent arch-rival.
Feeling trapped and uncomfortable, they began to negotiate. “What have we to do with thee?” That is, why are you meddling with us? What do we have in common? This is a good question. Jesus really has little to do with them, except to make a fool of them. He came to save fallen people, and ridicule fallen angels.
The demons knew who He was, and gave Him His rightful title. “While the men in the boat are doubting what manner of man this is, that even the winds and the sea obey him, the demons come to tell them” (Theophylact). People may hesitate to acknowledge who Jesus really is, but demons knew exactly who He was.
The Bible clearly teaches that demons believe in the existence of one God, “and tremble” (JM 2:19). They know Christ, they hate Him and dread Him. They “tremble” because their experience entails recognition without acceptance. They fully know the consequences of rejecting God. Rarely will you hear me say this: I urge you now, take time to learn from these demons; listen closely to their words.
Matt. 8:29b “. . .art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”
These demons, feeling danger in the air, feared the day they fear had come. They felt fire and smelled sulphur. Demons are today fugitives, prisoners at large, but shall someday be captives in pits of darkness. They currently are allowed to tempt and afflict us, but at the Judgment will be condemned to everlasting punishment. They are loosed now, but shall be chained then (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 20:10). In an old study Bible, my Ruth wrote by Revelation 20:10, “Goodbye devil!” Clyde Painton, one of my boyhood heroes, when preaching on the grief, pain, and misery caused by sin, would lift his clenched fist high in the air, and say, “When God knocks the devil into Hell, I hope He uses this fist right here to do it.”
Torment is the ultimate fate of Satan and his cohorts. They know this. The demons in these two men feared this unplanned and untimely confrontation with Jesus might result in their being condemned prematurely. They feared judgment before the final Judgment. Thus, they are shrieking, stalling, haggling, quibbling, wondering, “Jesus, why are you in our face now? It’s not yet time for the finale.”
These demons knew three vital truths. Jesus is the Son of God, He is their Judge, He will someday condemn them. Demons believe these things, but their leader, the father of lies, wants people to think all three of these things are lies. He even succeeds in often making people think he himself is a myth, nonexistent.
Despite Satan’s repeated success in these areas, sinners still have a nagging inner sense of guilt. Deep down, they know something is wrong. Sin makes us afraid to think on God and death. A life of sin offers no optimism for the future. Sin brings dread of what tomorrow may hold. This is the bad news, but the good news is, Jesus came to save, not torment, sinners. His offer of forgiveness is clear and gracious, but not to be trifled with. Delay is dangerous. A few sins not dealt with open the door to many sins. Today’s no makes tomorrow’s yes harder to say.
A pastor visited a dying elderly man who early in life showed good spiritual inclinations, but who drifted in the wrong direction and finally became hardened in his determination not to follow Jesus. As the pastor entered the room, the man cried out like these demoniacs, “Why are you come to torment me?” The pastor replied, “I am not come to torment you; I am come to tell you that there is mercy, mercy yet, and mercy even for you.” The man violently swung his arm and said, “No mercy for me! No mercy for me! No mercy for me! I have sinned through all, I have despised all;–I am dying, and I am lost!” Within minutes he died.
Don’t let this happen to you. Learn a lesson from demons: judgment, hell, condemnation–these are real, do not take them lightly. At the same time, forgiveness, heaven, eternal life–these, too, are real, and are offered to repentant sinners.