Pastor Scott L. Harris
February 28, 1993
Jesus’ Authority Over The Supernatural
Much of popular psychology is based on a premise that says that man is innately good and that his problem is that his environment is bad. Therefore, if the circumstances surrounding the man were changed for the better, then the man would change for the better as well. In raising children this comes out more like, leave them alone and they will come out fine, if you try to direct them, you will mess them up. Hence, the strange idea of the “wisdom of the children.” Scripture says the opposite about man. Children have foolishness bound up in their hearts (Proverbs 22:15). Man is innately sinful, not good.
One of the many manifestations of the sinfulness of man is his self-centeredness. His approach to life is based upon how things affect him. Ask a man at different stages of his life what the most important question of life is and he will give you different answers. The little boy might say it is how to get out of eating his beans and still get the ice cream for dessert. The High Schooler will be concerned with what to wear to a school social function, or how they will do on a test, or which college to attend next year. The collegian is also concerned with tests and such, the business of getting through college, but a more important question is on their minds, “what will I do after college, where will I get a job?” Also figure into the life of these young adults that supreme question of “who am I going to marry?” As life goes on, employment is gained, marriages occur, children come and the questions change, but they are always in relation to how things will affect that individual personally. Should I stay at this job, or where shall I seek employment next in light of the lay-offs coming, or what am I going to do about my kids, or what am I going to do about retirement, or ???.
Let me suggest to you this morning that while all those questions of life are important, they are not the most important questions of life. The two most important questions to ask at every point in your life are: 1) Who is Jesus Christ? and 2) How am I going to respond to Him? All the other questions of life should be approached only after those first two questions are answered.
Who should you marry? First, who is Jesus Christ? If He is who He claims, He is the one that established marriage. Therefore, I should respond to Him by finding someone with whom I can establish the kind of marriage he wants for me. What school should you go to? Who is Jesus Christ? If He is who He claims, then your life belongs to Him. Go to the school that will best prepare you for what He wants you to do with your life. What job should you take? Who is Jesus Christ? If He is who He claims to be, then He has already promised to take care of you and you are to pursue His kingdom and His righteousness, therefore take the job in which you can glorify Him and He can you use you with your particular gifts and skills to further His kingdom.
In this morning’s text, we will continue to examine the evidence that Matthew is presenting that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the promised redeemer who is God Himself in human flesh. In our past studies of this book, we have already seen that Matthew has documented that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He had the correct genealogy, the correct place and manner of birth, the correct response to temptation, the correct teaching, and the correct authority over disease, sickness, and nature. This morning we are going to see that Jesus also has authority over the supernatural. It is as we pointed out last week in Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.” Jesus made both the natural and the supernatural, so it is inherent that He would have authority over them. We are also going to look at the response of those who encountered Jesus that day. Who is Jesus? How should I respond to Him?
A Trip to the Gadarenes
Turn with me to Matthew 8:28. “And when he had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road.” Remember that the day before Jesus had been busy in the area around Capernaum on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. That night the disciples and Jesus had left Capernaum to cross to the other side of the Sea. Remember from last week, that in the midst of their journey they encountered a very severe storm that threatened to swamp the boat and drown them. The disciples had cried out to Jesus to save them, and He did so by rebuking the wind and the sea telling them to be still, and they were immediately. The disciples marveled at this saying, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him.” (See: Jesus’ Authority Over Nature). Day had come and they had completed their journey across the Sea of Galilee. This would be a day when they would again see Jesus do something that would make them marvel. “What kind of man is this?”
Our text tells us that they were now in the country of the Gadarenes. Mark calls it “Gerasenes” and Luke “Gergesenes.” It is all the same place. The description of the geography of the place puts them near the town of Khersa from which the names “Gerasenes” and “Gergesenes” come from. Either of these would be named for the local area. However, the region as a whole took its name from a larger city to the south called “Gadara.” The area Jesus and the disciples came to is on the Northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee about 6 miles southeast across the sea from Capernaum.
The Demonized Men
As they come out of the boat and start up the hill on their way to the village, they pass by a graveyard where they are met by two demon-possessed men. Now I realize that there are some that doubt the existence of demons or that if they do exist they cannot control a man. The case before us presents just the opposite. Not only do demons exist, but also that they can control the actions of the individual. The Scriptures present varying degrees of demonic influence and/or control. The word here is not “demon-possession,” but “demonized.” Demons cannot “possess” in the sense of “own,” but they can influence, and to the degree they influence, they control. Psalm 32, 106 and 1 Corinthians 10:18-21 all point out that demons are the power behind false religions. Paul warns in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 about demonic influence in the church itself through false teachers who pay attention to “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Paul mentions, in specific, two such doctrines in that passage; forbidding marriage and abstaining from foods for religious reasons. This demonic activity is as active today as it was in the time of Christ. Just note the proliferation of false religions, cults, and apostasy in the professing church.
Demons can also influence to cause both mental and physical illness. In Matthew 17:15-18 we find a boy that was suicidal because of a demon. The men in our text this morning are mentally deranged. In Matthew 12:22 there is a man made both dumb and blind by a demon. In Luke 13:11, 12 there is a woman that is physically deformed by a “spirit.” I do not believe all disease and mental illness is caused by demonic activity, but I do believe that much of what we call “mental illness” is demonic in nature and that some physical problems are also demonic.
Demons can also manifest themselves supernaturally through humans. In Acts 16, Paul casts a “spirit of divination” out of a girl that was following him around. In Acts 19 we are told of a man who was demonized that overpowered seven men and left them bruised, battered, and naked. Demons are real, they are powerful, they are dangerous, but as we shall see in our text for this morning, they are no match for Jesus.
Our text tells us that these demonized men were coming out of the tombs. These men were so mentally deranged by the demons that they were actually living in a graveyard. Their place of residence matched the condition they were in – defiled and unclean. Matthew tells us that they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road anymore. The people in the area were afraid of these demon-possessed men, and with good reason. Mark and Luke only talk about one of these demonized men and describe him in more detail telling about his great strength. Mark 5:3,4 says, “no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.” They had tried to capture this man and end his attacks on people in the area, but he proved too strong for the chains they used to bind him with.
Mark and Luke also describe some of his mental derangement. Luke says that “he had not put on any clothing for a long time,” and Mark says, “And constantly night and day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones.” The demons residing within him manifested themselves by causing him to be deranged, masochistic, and have superhuman strength.
As Jesus and the disciples are going by the graveyard, these demonized men come out of the tombs and come before Jesus crying out (vs. 29) “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” It was not the men so much as the demons inside them saying this. The men did not know that Jesus was the Son of God, but the demons did know. Demons are fallen angels. They are spirit beings, and as such they recognized Jesus’ spirit though they had not encountered Him in human flesh before. Mark and Luke indicate that one of the men even fell down before Jesus in saying this. They are rebellious spirits, but they have no choice but to fall down and obey Jesus even as Philippians 2:19 tells us that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, it is only a matter of timing.
These demons not only recognized Jesus, they also knew that they were going to be judged by Him. Demons have better theology than some preachers. James tells us that they believe there is one God, and they shudder because of it. Here we find these demons wondering what Jesus was going to do with them. Luke 8:31 tells us specifically that they were afraid that Jesus was going to cast them into the abyss as other demons had been (1 Peter 3:19) before the start of the millennium when Satan and all his host will be cast in (Revelation 20:2f). Did Jesus come to torment them before the time?
Casting Out the Demons – Exorcism
At this point, the demons begin to entreat Jesus not to cast them into the abyss (Luke 8:31) or to send them to another country (Mark 5:10). Matthew 8:30 tells us that they notice a herd of swine feeding a distance away and in verse 31 “the demons began to entreat Him, saying, ‘If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.'” This is not the “if you decide to cast us out” because that was already clear. Mark 5:8 tells us Jesus had already ordered them out. Here they are entreating Jesus about where they were to go. It is not really an “if you cast us out,” but more of a “since you are casting us out, can we go to the swine?”
Nothing in this text, or in Mark or in Luke, indicate why the demons wanted to go into the herd of pigs except they saw this as a better option than being cast into the abyss. It is safe to assume that they knew Jesus would not grant them going into some other person, so possibly they thought Jesus would accept this option since they were unclean and the swine were also considered unclean by Jewish law. We do know from both Mark and Luke that there were many demons, even calling themselves by the name, “Legion, for we are many.” We also know from Mark there were about 2,000 pigs in that herd. These men had many demons in them, and now that they were about to be cast out of the men, they request Jesus to let them go into the swine.
Matthew 8:32 records that Jesus grants their request by simply commanding them, “Be gone!” “And they came out, and went into the swine, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters.” The first case of deviled ham. The demons were in rebellion against God, but like captured enemy soldiers, they had no choice but to obey Jesus when in His presence, because He is God.
There has been quite a bit of speculation about why Jesus may have granted the request of the demons. Some have said it was to punish the owners of the swine because pigs were unclean by Jewish law, therefore they should not have been raising them. But that makes the assumption that the owners were Jewish and Jesus was in an area with a lot of Gentiles. The texts do not really say why Jesus granted the request of the demons, but they do record the result of what happened, and that tells us the response of the people of the city.
Matthew 8:33, “And the herdsmen ran away, and went to the city, and reported everything, including the incident of the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they entreated Him to depart from their region.” Mark and Luke both tell us that when these townspeople arrived and saw Jesus, they also saw the former naked demoniac sitting down, clothed, and in his right mind. They also saw the report about the swine was true and they realized what Jesus had done. He had cast the multitudes of demons from the man. This Jesus was no ordinary man, and as it says in Luke 8:37, “they were gripped with a great fear.” That is why they asked Jesus to leave their region.
Some have speculated that they wanted Jesus to leave because they valued their swine more than the demonized men. They feared losing more of their livestock if Jesus would cast more demons out of other people. That could be true, but none of the texts stress that. Instead, they emphasize that they were afraid because they saw that these men who had been demoniacs were now normal, and the testimony of the herdsmen and the evidence of the drowned pigs was that Jesus had indeed cast the demons out of these men. They were afraid of Jesus and His power. This was not an ordinary human, and it scared them. The response of the people of the city to Jesus was fear. They did not want to know anymore about Him. They had seen enough to know He was not an ordinary man, and they wanted nothing more to do with Him. They asked Jesus to leave. And Mark and Luke tell us Jesus complied.
Mark and Luke also tell us about the response of the man who had been indwelt by the thousands of demons. Look at Mark 5:18, “And as he was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was entreating Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone marveled.” The man who had been indwelt by the thousands of demons knew what had been done for him and who had done it. His response was that he wanted to follow Jesus. But Jesus had other plans for the man. The people of the city would not tolerate Jesus’ presence, so God in his mercy to that city and that whole area was going to leave a witness to them – the former demonized man. “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” The man’s response was obedience. He went and did just what Jesus had told him. The result was that the whole region of Decapolis, that whole area to the east and to the south of the Sea of Galilee, heard about Jesus and what He had done.
The demons, the people of the area, and the demoniacs had to face the question of “who is Jesus.” We have to face it as well. Matthew has further strengthened his case that Jesus is God in human flesh. Jesus has authority over disease, Jesus has authority over nature, and Jesus has authority over the supernatural. How do you answer that question?
We also have to face the question of our response to Jesus in light of who He is. What is your response? Are you going to be like the demons? Knowing who Jesus is does not bring a benefit in this life or in eternity if that knowledge is like that of the demons. The demons knew who Jesus was and they trembled because they knew He was their judge. They were rebellious and obeyed Him only when they had no other choice. Do you recognize who Jesus is, but the response of your life is still in a state of rebellion? You only obey when you are left no other choice? If that is the characteristic of your life, then be warned you are in grave danger of being cast out just like the demons.
Are you like the people of the city? They were curious about Jesus, but became afraid when they found out Jesus was not like them. They were scared that if Jesus could change the life of a demon-controlled man, then He might change their lives as well. Let me be frank, if you like your life the way it is now, then you have good reason to be frightened of Jesus. He loves you too much to let you stay the way you are. He wants to cleanse you from all sin, and not just the outward things, but the hidden sins of the heart as well. He wants to bring sinners to repentance and salvation, and those who are saved into a closer walk with Him in a life of holiness. Are you afraid of what Jesus will do to your life? Then be warned that if you send Him away, He will leave behind a witness of Himself, but He will go. Are you willing to risk that?
What Jesus wants are people like the demonic. Jesus came to earth in order to seek and save the lost, to redeem sinful man. His death, burial, and resurrection were all done so that Jesus could transfer you from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom. If you come to Jesus and confess your sins, He will forgive you and cleanse you just as He did the demoniac. The response He desires from you in return is the response of the demoniac, “I want to follow you,” and a willingness to go and do whatever He says. The Scriptures tells of many things that He wants us to do in following Him including being good stewards of all that He has given to us, using our gifts to build His church, reaching out to those that are lost, and for us to live holy lives. If He tells you to “go home and tell all your people the great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you” will you do it enthusiastically?
Who do you think Jesus is? What do you think you should do in response to Him? He is God. I pray your response will be one of trust and obedience.
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