Monday, December 07, 2009

Matthew 8:28–34

Matthew 8:28–34 (ESV) : Jesus Heals Two Men with Demons


In the last passage, Jesus and his disciples were in a boat, and he calmed a storm. In this passage, they get to the other side to a country which is either called Gadarenes, Gergesenes, or Gerasenes (see verse 28 (ESV) , including the footnotes). He meets two men who are demon-possessed (the Greek can also be rendered “oppressed by demons;” see the other footnote for verse 28 (ESV) ), who come out of the tombs to meet him. The demons speak to Jesus, asking what he has to do with them, and whether he’s come to torment them before “the time” (verse 29 (ESV) ).

The text doesn’t record Jesus answering the demons, but they seem to know that he’s going to cast them out anyway. There is a herd of pigs nearby, and they beg Jesus to send them into the pigs, if he’s going to cast them out of the men. So Jesus does, and sends the demons into the pigs, which rush into the sea and drown.

The men who had been herding the pigs rush into town and tell everyone what has happened, and when they hear of it, the townspeople come out to see Jesus and beg him to leave the region.


This same account is also told in Mark 5:1–21 (ESV) and Luke 8:26–40 (ESV) . This account is different from the other two accounts, though, because in the other two accounts we are told that the demons are called “legion,” which everyone tends to remember, and also because in this passage it mentions two men, but the other passages only mention one. My guess is that one of the men was sort of the “ring leader,” and that’s why the other passages only mention him.

Other than that, I find the interaction between the demons and Jesus to be fascinating. Especially this part:

And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (verse 29 (ESV) )

First of all, the demons obviously recognize Jesus for who he is. And secondly, they seem to be aware of a time when Jesus is going to torment them! I am very interested in passages like 1 Peter 1:10–12 (ESV) , which talk about angels longing to look into the mysteries of the good news, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t know anything. These demons seem to know that a time is coming when God is going to torment them.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Matthew 8:23–27

Matthew 8:23–27 (ESV) : Jesus Calms a Storm


Jesus and his disciples get in a boat to cross the sea—I believe the Sea of Galilee—whereupon Jesus goes to sleep. While he is asleep, a great storm arises, and the disciples think they’re going to perish, so they wake Jesus to ask him to save them. His response?

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (verse 26a (ESV) )

He then gets up and “rebukes” the storm, which then dissipates, leaving a “great calm” (verse 26 (ESV) ). At this, the disciples “marvel,” and say, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (verse 27 (ESV) ).


The disciples do have some faith, in this passage—at least they go to Jesus to ask him to save them. But if they had really, truly believed that he was the Messiah, would they have thought they were going to die in the first place? At this point, I’m pretty sure they believed that the Messiah wouldn’t die; at the moment the storm came up, they had more faith in the power of the storm than they had that Jesus was the Messiah.

Or maybe they thought that Jesus would survive, but they wouldn’t? Even then, the logic is flawed; I had a pastor point out once the parallel passage in Luke 8:22- 25 (ESV) , where, before setting out, Jesus said, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” If they had truly believed that Jesus was God, they would have known that they’d be getting to the other side, because he’d said so.

I also find the wording interesting, when it says that Jesus “rebukes” the storm. Was the storm doing something wrong, that Jesus had to rebuke it? But this isn’t the first time the Bible uses the word “rebuke” in connection with God and nature; the ESV Study Bible points us to 2 Samuel 22:16 and Psalm 18:15:

Then the channels of the sea were seen;
  the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at the rebuke of the LORD,
  at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.

2 Samuel 22:16 (ESV)

Then the channels of the sea were seen,
  and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
  at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

Psalm 18:15 (ESV)

Even so, it just seems like an odd word to me—whether New Testament or Old—for God to be commanding the natural world. When this passage says that Jesus “rebukes” the storm, I think of him saying something along the lines of, “Hey! Storm! What are you doing? I’m trying to sleep here!” and the storm saying, “Sorry Jesus!” and slinking away. To be clear, I don’t think this is how the situation actually happened—I’m not trying to be blasphemous—it’s just the picture that comes to mind for me when I hear the word “rebuke” in this context.