Matthew 8:18-34 Part 3

And now we come to this most remarkable event – the confrontation between Christ and the Gadarene demoniacs.  This is obviously a historical occurrence which is figuratively and theologically complex; and there is so much more here than just the simple event itself.  Again, this isn’t a single, isolated story.

The Lord Jesus had, only a short time before this, told the scribe, the representative of Israel’s leadership, that scavengers and vultures had taken dominion over the nation of Israel.  And there was a demonic wilderness in the surrounding nations.  So the King of Kings had no Kingdom in which to lay His head, which means no authority and no Kingdom.

Then He stepped out of the nation of Israel, casting it off and rejecting it, setting sail for the wilderness of the Gentiles.  And while on board the boat crossing over, He fell asleep and a great shaking occurred.  A tumult in the sea.  A quaking tumult.

And, of course, what is being figured here in this real event was the death and burial of Christ!  The great shaking of the sea of humanity was the shaking and destruction of Israel and the empowering of the Son of Man as He goes forth to redeem the world and bring it into submission!

And the new disciples, who had no idea yet that the foundations of the New Heavens and the New Earth were being laid, were fearful of the formless turmoil of the shaking and the wind and the inundating waves.  And they awakened Jesus to save.  And Matthew uses the exact word that he ought to have used in order to indicate the Lord Jesus Christ being “raised up.”  And immediately Jesus brings calm to the tumult.

And, again quite obviously, what is being figured here in this absolutely real and significant event, is the resurrection of the Son of God as the Savior of the world!  And not only did Jesus demonstrate His Creator/God control over every aspect of His Own creation, but He also demonstrated the electing love and mercy of The Father as the salvation of the nations is here so clearly figured.

The faithless fear of the disciples was the fear of “going under.”  But the “going down into the deep” was actually being figured for the old people of God.  Those old foundations were being shaken, and the structures were being destroyed – going down under.  The disciples were actually witnessing the laying of the new foundations on the Rock which is Christ.  And if they had seen that (and understood it), they would have known that the shaking tumult around them was not, alone, the ominous, foreboding event which they imagined!

The point is that even though this must have been an awful, fear-producing occurrence in God’s nature, if the disciples had seen that it was a Kingdom-significant thing of such cosmic magnitude, they still, I don’t think, would have enjoyed the ride, but they would have been able to marvel at the working of the Son of Man as He worked His initial strokes of judgment and righteousness.

And we must remember that, even though the strokes here were very real – and awful works of inspiring magnitude – they were, in actuality, mini-strokes.  Strokes that prefigured the nationwide destruction to take place, and the world-wide and eternal implications of the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth!

You see, as God brought light and life and order into the formless void and chaos of creation in the beginning; and as He brought life and newness into a dead and depraved world with the tumult of the flood; so the Lord Jesus Christ, in the same proportions and to the same degree, brings light and life and order into the wilderness of human depravity – world-wide!

His coming was the shaking of everything old and the establishment of a new creation!  And it is a newness which is progressively victorious until the earth is covered with it as it was with water during the flood!  That’s why Scripture says that the earth will never again be destroyed – the final shaking has taken place, and the new heavens and the new earth will cover the earth like the water covers the sea.  And it is eternal and progressive and built on the Rock Which can never be moved!  The Kingdom is settling over the world like the dew from Mt. Herman.  The Spirit of Christ is Hovering over the depraved chaos, and bringing judgment and righteousness and order and Light and Life and obedience!

The disciples didn’t see this yet – and Jesus called them “O you of little faith.”  Then He arose and commanded the tumult. He stopped the shaking.  He brought order to the chaos.  And then He headed toward the Gentile shore to begin the process.

Now, as we heard last Lord’s Day, and the one before that, the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Genassaret as it’s less commonly known, is a part of the Jordan River separation between Israel and the Gentiles.  Specifically, on the other side of the Lake was Syria!  And when Jesus steps over the edge of the shore into the boat in order to cross over to the other side, that’s where He’s going!


“And when He had arrived at the other side,” verse twenty-eight, “into the country of the Gadarenes, there met Him two demoniacs coming forth out of the tombs, very fierce, so as to allow one on to pass along through that way.”


Now, right at the beginning here we meet one of those little pesky textual problems which isn’t all that edifying to preach about, but which gives us an opportunity to build our confidence and trust in the integrity of the Scriptures!  But the issue, which isn’t worth spending any time on, is simply that Matthew uses the word Gadarene demoniacs while the other two Gospel writers say “Gergasene,” or “Gerasene” demoniacs.

Like I say, it’s no big deal, and it isn’t worth going through all the evidences with you in this setting.  But I bring it up because it’s one of those places that critics of Scriptural infallibility and inerrancy go when they want to berate the intelligence of those who hold to the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

But one only has to begin with the faithful presupposition that all that God’s Word says is true; and that, when a glitch shows up that we can’t explain, it is a shortage of information or understanding that is the problem and not the Scriptures!

In this case the issue was not enough geographical information.  Because now we know that Gadara was the little lake-front fishing village on the Syrian side of the lake, and Gerasa was what the region was called.  So Gadarene demoniacs and Gerasene demoniacs are the same ones, and both names are true!

But one caution – don’t ever think that archaeology proves the Scriptures!  It doesn’t.  The proof of what God is and says is not with man.  The truth is that Scripture proves archaeology!  If something else had been found, then the archaeology would have been in error.  But, as it happened, the scientists found what was true, and interpreted it truly, and the Bible proved that they did a good job.  They did not prove the Scripture to be true – the Scripture was already true!  See the difference?

One of the very big issues on the ecclesiastical scene today is this one concerning the Scriptures.  That’s what the big separation is in Southern Baptist churches and other denominations.  And, although I’ve already spent more time on this point than I wanted to, you need to be built up so you won’t be confounded by the false prophets out there who mock the integrity of God’s holy Word.  So “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might….”  These are dark powers and principalities that are attempting to destroy our faith.  So, “stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth… and take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  And it is inerrant and infallible.  It is true in everything it says, and all of its parts agree.  And it is the Spirit of Christ and the preached Word of God which drives men to seek a substitute for their own depravity.

But an emasculated Word has no power.  And there is no salvation and no Kingdom victory in our time if men are allowed to get away with proclaiming a Bible that’s anything less than what it says it is.  The fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Convention seems to have won the day, but it’s remarkable that forty-eight percent of them openly admit that Scriptural infallibility and inerrancy isn’t a requirement to them in order to be a Christian.  That’s frightening!  That’s on the inside of what’s called a conservative denomination.  Just think of the percentages in a so-called “liberal” group!

And, of course, in the un-churched there is no faith at all in Biblical integrity.

Well, as important as that is, the text is more so.

For the first time Jesus sets foot on Gentile soil.  And the victory over sin and death and Satan which would take place soon on Calvary is about to be pre-figured again.  The Gentile nations, the wildernesses of demon-possessed humanity, were about to be the recipients of the promised salvation of God.  And to illustrate that, the first thing that meets Jesus on Gentile soil is the legions of Satanic angels who have had free reign since the fall of Adam.

And, as the representative of all the fallen angels, this legion receives the fate which is to befall all of them in time – the “going under” into eternal woe, which the disciples, you remember, feared so greatly during the shaking of the sea while they were crossing over.

We’ll get to the second thing that greeted Jesus on Gentile soil in a minute.  But let’s examine the demoniac confrontation first – in a little detail.

Apparently there were hillsides going up pretty close to the shore on the Syrian side.  And, from the sound of the text, this is a fairly hilly countryside.  Gadara must have had hills all around it – three sides – and the common burial place for the dead were holes cut out of the sides of cliffs.  And that’s where these fierce, howling, demon-possessed people were living – inside these holes where the dead bodies were!

And, from the text, they were so beastly and animalistic that no one could capture them, and no one could pass through that area to another!  The town was over this way, with fishing boats and other activities – and down the shore and up on the hill there was a couple of people feeding a heard of swine.

And, as Jesus and His disciples step out of the boat – with all the others in all the other boats, these animalistic people come rushing out of the tombs and down the hill – menacing, fierce, howling and growling.

And the demons cried out directly to Jesus – probably in a great cacophony of noise – “What is there for us and for you, Son of God?  Did you come here ahead of time to torment us?”

Now, that first part is a Greek idiom.  Don’t forget that Syria had been thoroughly Hellenized for a hundred years by this time.  And the Greek idiom coming out of the mouths of these people wasn’t unusual at all.  The literal translation – “What is there for us and for you…” simply means – What do we have to do with you?  What’s the reason for this – why are you here?  Have You come ahead of time to torment us?

Now, apparently these creatures knew, although by no means were they omniscient – and having no abilities to be in more than one place at a time, and being limited to time as all other creatures are – these angels knew that something terrible would one day happen to them!  They knew God.  And they knew His Son – as is demonstrated here – and they knew the written Word of God.  And they knew that Jesus was the second Person of the Triune Godhead – God’s Son.

And – something else!  “Have you come ahead of time” also indicates that they knew of the coming victory at the cross and the binding of their leader – Satan.  And it also indicates that they knew about the coming inclusion of the Gentile nations in the Covenant – and the accompanying taming of the beasts and wildernesses of the Gentiles.

The writer Luke is much more specific than Matthew is.  He wrote, “Don’t command us into the deep!”  You see, these creatures knew that one day they would be sent “into the deep.”  Or “down under.”  And, as is the case so many times in Scripture, deep water is often used to signify inundation, judgment, rejection and banishment into the “underworld” of eternal woe.

And, that’s exactly what happens here!  They see the Son of God coming and they immediately begin to cry and scream and pray and beg because they knew the dreaded “casting under” was coming!  And, since He was here now, they began to doubt their own eschatological understanding!  They asked Him if He was going to send them under early!

So they begged Him instead to send them into the swine in order to keep away from “going under.”  So Jesus did.  But He deceived them!  The swine up on the top of the hill, having received the demons, rushed in panic down that cliff right into the water and were drowned!  And the demonic angels went under anyway!

And the significance of this great event in the grand and mighty plan of God for the Warrior-King to conquer the nations, is that no longer is the world hopelessly lost in the demonic depravity which is so characteristic of the Gentile nations!  Jesus, having been raised up, is the Savoir of the world.  He has cast off the old nation of God, and He has risen again from the dead in order to establish a new Israel – a New Heavens and New Earth – a redeemed and peculiar people – holy unto Himself.  And that salvation also extends to all of creation itself, which groans for its redemption; for the atonement extends even to the elimination of sin and death from the world.  And it extends to the casting down of the principalities and powers of the air, and all the demonic, rebellious angels, and sending them into eternal suffering and woe down under.

Now, the second thing that meets Jesus on Gentile soil is the Greek Polis.  Polis being the Greek word for city.  And from which comes our English word. “police.”

Matthew writes: 

“Now, those feeding them fled, and, having gone into the city, reported everything, especially about the demoniacs.  And, lo, all the city came out to a meeting with Jesus, and having seen Him they requested that He go away from their domain.”  (Their province.  Their locality.)


So the whole “city” comes out for a meeting with Christ.  We don’t know what Jesus said to them – all we know is what they said to Him.  But we do know what He said in other similar situations, don’t we?  Just before He offered Himself up for sacrifice, He said:  “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be thrown out.”  That’s the same word St. John uses in Revelation twelve for the throwing down of the dragon!  And Jesus Himself announced, a little later on in this Gospel:  “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

The Cross, according to Jesus, was the mark of the judgment of the world (John twelve, thirteen) – or, as John Calvin put it, the reformation and restoration of the world.  The illegitimate ruler of the Gentile world order was cast out by the coming of Christ.  And, as He Himself said, “All authority (remember the word exousia – from being) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”  And the Apostle John later adds the same thing:  The Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come!

So the Greek polis comes out for its very first meeting ever with the Son of God.  And it doesn’t really matter to the significance of this event what they said.  The point is that the demonic infestation that terrorized this little fishing village was the figure of the demon possession of the entire Gentile world.  And Christ sends them under.  Wherever He goes He sends them under and they no longer wreak havoc and demonic power over the populations.  Men and women and children then come under a new Sovereign.  God’s anointed King.

Now, all of these events, as we’ve said, are figures of the coming death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and His later actual destruction of the Temple, the city and the nation of Israel; and the going out of the preaching of the Gospel into the nations of the world.

And Jesus has also given us another figure.  A figure of our unity in Him.  A figure of our being in His body.  Our city is a Gentile city.  And without His sacrifice; and without His crossing over to take dominion over us and bring us into submission, we would still be in a wilderness of demonism and bestiality.  His atonement means so much.  And this is the sign of it.

The city told Jesus to “go away” from their locality.  And I don’t think it’s coincidental that that’s what Jesus said He had to do.  Listen:  (John chapter thirteen, one) “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should go away out of this world unto the Father….”  This is exactly the same word Matthew uses as he describes the city of Gadara asking Jesus to depart.  Go away.  He did, and the Spirit of Christ now hovers over the new Heavens and the new earth.

And, at that last Passover, which is the context in John, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Table, which he instructed us to observe while He is “gone away” and until He returns.

From Gadara’s viewpoint it looked helpless.  But the unholy angels knew Him, and they were done!  As you look at our increasingly unholy environment, the tendency is to lose heart.  “O ye of little faith!”  The Warrior-King has stepped out on your soil and taken control as your reigning Monarch!

He has now “gone away”, as He promised, in order that the Spirit of His glory might put all enemies under His feet.  What you “see” is not what you get!  Don’t let what you think you see deter you from what is real and actual!  Don’t be faint-hearted and weak-kneed!  Be faithful to the One who has already won the victory.