Exorcism and the Identity of Christ

Tonight, we’re going to be looking at the first case of an exorcism in Matthew. This is again in the 8th chapter.

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.

Now we have seen that Jesus has power over sickness and we have seen that he has power over the natural world. When we come here, we will see he has power over beings that are directly opposed to him, which is what we see in the Old Testament as well. Satan has limits in how far he can go against the people of God which we see in the book of Job. It should be a comfort to we Christians that evil can only come at us insofar as God allows it.

What’s interesting about these exorcisms though is how the demons recognized Jesus. They believed that with the coming of Jesus, their judgment was sealed. The demons were also not slow to announce who Jesus really was.

Now what stance you will take eschatologically from this is up to you. I have a stance, but I do not make it an issue of my blog. All I want to recognize thus far is that Jesus was seen as a figure with the authority to judge demons and they realized that he could very well be there to bring about that judgment.

Notice in this passage that they ask him if they can go into swine. They seek permission to even be allowed to enter another body. This shows a fascinating difference between Jesus and any other exorcist. It is not likely that demons would ask any common exorcist of the day if they could go somewhere else if they must be cast out?

After this, the men go into the town to witness about what Christ has done. The people come out and see Jesus and they beg him to leave their region. This might seem like a shock to us, but in many ways, I think it’s reasonable. If I lived in a town and knew someone had come with that kind of power and authority, I’d probably be a bit spooked to.

Maybe we should learn something from the demons and the townspeople.

Jesus is a unique authority figure. You don’t ever take him lightly. The great shame of evangelicalism is we’ve made Jesus such a friendly figure entirely that we forget he’s a holy and righteous judge as well. May we never lose sight of who he is. It’s a shame if demons know who Jesus is better than we do.

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