“Emmanuel’s Domain Part 2” – Matthew 8:28-34

June 21st, 2015

Matthew 8:28-34

“Emmanuel’s Domain Pt. 2”


Service Orientation:  There is no force in heaven or on earth that Jesus can’t whoop.  If you are “in Christ” you can be guaranteed that your future is positive and encouraging.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. —  1 John 4:4


Background Information:

  • After the miraculous calming of the storm, Jesus and the disciples continue their trip across the Sea of Galilee. The next incident focuses entirely on Jesus, there is no mention of the disciples.  Matthew draws our attention further to Jesus to help answer the exclamatory question, “what kind of man is this?”  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 352)
  • (v. 28) Gadara was a member of the Decapolis, or Ten Cities. These ten cities with independent governments were largely inhabited by Gentiles.  Whatever the exact location of their landing, the point is that Jesus had planned to go there.  This was Gentile territory, revealing a new direction for his ministry.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 165)
  • (v. 28) The ancient world believed unquestioningly and intensely in evil spirits. The air was so full of these spirits that it was not even possible to insert into it the point of a needle without coming against one.  Some said that there were seven and a half million of them; there were ten thousand of them on a man’s right hand and ten thousand on his left; and all were waiting to work men harm.  They lived in unclean places such as tombs, and places where no cleansing water was to be found. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 320)
  • (v. 28) It is admitted that the ancients, and some people today, fantastically exaggerate the role of demons, but the NT clearly differentiates between demon-possession and other diseases such as epilepsy. If the existence of demons be denied, the knowledge and integrity of Christ are impugned.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 50)
  • (v. 28) Some think these two were man and wife, because the other Evangelists speak but of one. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 112)
  • (v. 28) Demonization may be defined as a condition in which one or more demons inhabits and gains control over a human being. Demons can attack men spiritually, mentally, and physically.  In the spiritual realm they promote false religions, demon worship, the occult, and innumerable kinds of immorality, including murder (Rv 9:20-21; 18:23-24).  In the intellectual and psychological realm they promote such things as false doctrines; insanity and masochism, as in this demon-possessed man, who gashed himself with stones (Mk 5:5); and inability to speak and suicidal mania (see Mk 9:17-22).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 41)
  • (v. 28) In more advanced societies, a person who is seriously deranged by demons is likely to be considered insane and placed in a mental institution, and it seems certain that many people who are diagnosed as mentally ill are actually demonized.

It is significant that Jesus never blamed a person for being either diseased or demon controlled.  He recognized them as victims of powers beyond their own control and as in need of deliverance, not exhortation or condemnation.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 42)

  • (v. 28) We learn from the other gospel accounts that at least one of the men wore no clothes and that he had such great strength that no chain could keep him bound. He was often driven into the desert by the demons and spent much of his time ranting and raving, “crying out and gashing himself with stones” (Mk 5:4-5; Lk 8:27-29).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 42)
  • (v. 28) The devil having the power of death, not as judge, but as executioner, he delighted to converse among the trophies of his victory, the dead bodies of men; but there, where he thought himself in the greatest triumph and elevation, as afterwards in Golgotha, the place of a skull, did Christ conquer and subdue him. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 112)
  • (v. 31) According to 12:43-45 demons do not like to be homeless. The pigs provide a suitable alternative home for them if they are forced out from their present hosts.  But even for this they apparently need (and receive) Jesus’ permission; he is in total control of the situation.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 341-2)
  • It may surprise you to know that the word angel occurs in the NT more often than the word love and the word sin. But we tend to read the NT with a comb, and every time we see a reference to the supernatural, to angels or demons, we sort of brush it aside, just as all good secularists do.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 254)
  • Rather than arguing questions such as whether demon possession was a primitive explanation of eccentric behavior or whether it was morally right for Jesus to destroy a large herd of pigs, it is better to hear the story as it was told and to come to grips with what it intends to tell us about the authority of Jesus over all the powers of the supernatural realm. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 79)


The question to be answered is . . . What is going on with this strange event concerning Jesus and 2000+ demons?


Answer:  Jesus sails from Capernaum to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, completely dominates 2000+ demons with a single word, and then gets back in the boat and sails back to Capernaum.  Jesus proves He is Master of the supernatural.  


The Word for the Day is . . . Authority



Scriptural picture of Satan.  1.  His names.  Beside the two principal names already mentioned, a number of other names and descriptive designations are applied to Satan.  They serve to reveal the dignity and character of this mighty celestial being.  He is called “Abaddon” and “Apollyon” (Rv 9:11), both meaning “the destroyer”; “the accuser of our brethren” (12:10); “the adversary” (1 Pt 5:8); “Beelzebul” (Mt 12:24); “Belial” (2 Cor 6:15); “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rv 12:9); “the great dragon” (12:9); “an enemy” (Mt 13:28, 39); “the evil one” (13:19, 38); “the father of lies” (Jn 8:44); “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4); “a liar” (Jn 8:44); “a murderer” (8:44); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2); “the ruler of the world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); “the ancient serpent” (Rv 12:9); “the tempter” (Mt 4:3; 1 Thes 3:5). (The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible Q-Z, 282)


He is the leader of a vast, compact organization of spirit-beings, “his angels” (Mt 25:41; Rv 12:7).  As “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), he skillfully directs an organized host of wicked spirits in the heavenlies who do his bidding (6:12).  The fallen angels who gave their allegiance to Satan (Rv 12:4, 7, 9) apparently retain their ranks, dignities, and titles which were divinely given them.  (The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible Q-Z, 283)


Satan is also described as “the ruler of this world” (Jn 12:31).  The “world” which he rules is the present world system organized according to his own principles, methods, and aims (2 Cor 4:3, 4; Eph 2:2; Col 1:13; 1 Jn 2:15-17).  The greed and self-centered ambitions of the nations, the deceptive diplomacy of the political world, the bitter hatred and rivalry in the sphere of commerce, the godless ideologies of the masses of humanity, all spring out of and are fostered by satanic influence.  Satan exercises his domination over “the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2).  The statement that “the whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19 ASV) indicates that the world of unregenerated humanity lies in the grip of Satan and supinely yields to his power.  Satan has gained his power over mankind by trickery and usurpation.  As the instigator of human sin, whose punishment is death, Satan gained “the power of death” and uses the fear of death as a means to keep men under his domination (Heb 2:14, 15).  (The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible Q-Z, 283)


Satan uses the weaknesses and limitations of men to entice them to sin (1 Cor 7:5).  He also employs the allurements of the world (1 Jn 2:15-17; 4:4).  He commonly tempts men to evil by the falsehood that they can attain a desired good through the doing of wrong.  His mode of operation is vividly demonstrated in the account of the Fall in Genesis 3.  Deception is a universal feature of his activities, justifying his description as “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rv 12:9).  He constantly lays “snares” for men to make them his captives (1 Tm 3:7; 2 Tm 2:26).  A fundamental temptation employed is pride (1 Tm 3:6).

Satan opposes the work of God through his counterfeiting activities.  He oversows the wheat with darnel, placing counterfeit believers among “the sons of the kingdom” (Mt 13:25, 38, 39).  These counterfeit believers form “a synagogue of Satan” (Rv 2:9; 3:9).   Satan often disguises himself as “an angel of light” by presenting his messengers of falsehood as messengers of truth (2 Cor 11:13-15).  Those who thus give themselves over to evil and become the agents of Satan to persuade others to do evil are the children and servants of the devil (Jn 6:70; 8:44; Acts 13:10). (The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible Q-Z, 283)


What is going on with this strange event concerning Jesus and 2000+demons?:

I-  Since the Fall when mankind surrendered his dominion on earth, demons have used their limited rule and reign to destroy the good God created.  (Mt 8:28, 32; see also: Gn 1:26-30; 2:15-17, 19-10; 3:1-7; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-9; Ps 8:3-8; Jn 10:10; 12:30-31; 14:30-31; 16:11; Eph 2:1-3; 6:12; Heb 2:5-9)


They ardently seek to destroy and dispossess all that is, acts, moves and lives.  They seek the death of people.  The ancient enmity of deep-rooted wrath and malice is in store for the human race.  Demons do not give up easily unless they are forcibly overcome.  They are doing the harm they are ordered to do.  Therefore the foul-smelling animals are delivered up that it may be made clear to the demons that they have permission to enter the swine but not to enter humans.  It is by our vices that we empower them to do harm.  Similarly, by our power of faith we tread on the necks of demons.  They become subject to us under Christ who is triumphant.  (Peter Chrysologus, Sermons 16.8)


God does often, for wise and holy ends, permit the efforts of Satan’s rage, and suffer him to do the mischief he would, and even by it do the mischief he would, and even by it serve his own purposes.  The devils are not only Christ’s captives, but his vassals; his dominion over them appears in the harm they do, as well as in the hindrance of them from doing more.  Thus even their wrath is made to praise Christ, and the remainder of it he does and will restrain.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 113)


Until the Lord comes the second time and binds him, he will never stop tempting, and practicing mischief.  In the days when our Lord was upon earth, it is clear that he had special power over the bodies of certain men and women, as well as over their souls.  Even in our own times there may be more of this bodily possession than some suppose, though confessedly in a far less degree than when Christ came in the flesh.  But that the devil is ever near us, and ever ready to ply our hearts with temptations, ought never to be forgotten.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 61)


Demon-possessed people are controlled by one or more demons.  Although we cannot be sure why demon possession occurs, we know that evil spirits can use the human body to distort and destroy a person’s relationship with God.  Demons had entered these men’s bodies and were controlling them, trying to destroy or distort God’s image.  Demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion against God and are now evil spirits under Satan’s control.  They help Satan tempt people to sin and have great destructive powers.  These men were clearly hopeless without Christ.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 165-6)


It’s quite telling that these demons hate and loathe everything about Jesus, yet do nothing in this world, and nothing in your life, apart from the sovereign permission of God.  Satan is a lion (1 Pt 5:8), but he is a lion on a leash.  And God holds the leash.  Demons decidedly do not have all authority; Jesus does.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 114)


It has been said that Satan builds a man up so that he can tear him down.  The Lord tears a man down so that He can build him up!  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 119)


This passage shows also the foolish trifling of some irreligious men, who imagine that the devils are not actually existing spirits, but merely the depraved affections of men: for how could covetousness, ambition, cruelty, and deceit, enter into the swine?  Let us learn also, that unclean spirits (as they are devoted to destruction) are the enemies of mankind; so that they plunge all whom they can into the same destruction with themselves.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 434)


There is nothing in the world that renders a man more unlike to a saint, and more like to Satan, than to argue from mercy to sinful liberty; from divine goodness to licentiousness.  This is the devil’s logic, and in whomsoever you find it, you may write, This soul is lost.  (Thomas Brooks; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 55)


“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  — EMERSON


“When Satan does not succeed in stopping the church with a frontal assault, he attacks from within.   This usually happens subtly—an invitation not sent, a job unnoticed, a critical comment overheard, jealously over something that really does not matter (like the size of piece of ham slice).  When the murmuring begins the devil smiles.” (Kent Hughes; Acts: The Church a Fire, 98)


“Christians fight spiritual warfare by repentance, faith and obedience.”   (David Powlison, Power Encounters:  Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare, 36)


Spiritual warfare is the blood, sweat, and tears of dying to one’s self and listening to God.  (David Powlison, Power Encounters:  Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare, 119)


II-  King Jesus with His authority will ultimately judge and condemn the Devil, demons, and the unrighteous to hell.  (Mt 8:29; see also:   Mt 25:31-46; Jn 12:30-31; Eph 1:18-23; 1 Tm 3:6-7; 2 Pt 2:4-12; Rv 19:19-20; 20:1-10)


The vast majority of the people of the United States of America certainly do not expect a judgment day.  How could any person live the way most Americans live and still believe in a judgment day?  After all, we kill roughly a million and a half unborn children every year.  We raise up armies to engage in a war against terror because terrorists killed about three thousand of us, but we wage no war against the terror of the womb because we do not fear God’s judgment.  We simply do not believe we will be held accountable.  The United States is a barbarian country.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 257-8)


The Bible says that at the end of the world, the devil and his demons will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rv 20:10).  The demons’ question revealed that they knew their ultimate fate.  The demons hoped that Jesus would not send them to their fate before the appointed time.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 167)


But one of the points of the story is that Jesus has matchless, unassailable authority over all powers of darkness and evil spirits.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 187)


Why didn’t Jesus just destroy these demons–or send them away?  Because the time for such work had not yet come.  Jesus healed many people of the destructive effects of demon possession, but he did not yet destroy demons.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 167)


The darkness of the scene implies that the legion of demons go from the drowned swine looking for others to inhabit, an ominous thought for these people who have rejected Jesus.  Jesus does not destroy the demons, rather, he allows evil to run its course in this world until “that day” when all will be rectified.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 354)


God could have removed Satan by incarcerating him immediately at the moment of his fall, but he is using him to train His future co-rulers.

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame; and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rv 3:21, 22).  This is why Jesus said that He has given believers authority over all power of the enemy (Lk 10:19).

To many of us, Satan is invincible.  Not so.   He is only a created being.  Learning progressively in time to overcome Satan is the primary qualification for rulership in eternity.  This is why God looked for a man to overcome Satan instead of doing it Himself.  This also explains why God permits Satan to contest the believer—to give him exercise in overcoming.  (Paul E. Billheimer; Destined to Overcome, 64)


On the other hand, millions of Christians live in a sentimental haze of vague piety, with soft-organ music trembling in the lovely light from stained-glass windows.  Their religion is a thing of pleasant emotional quivers, divorced from the will, divorced from the intellect, and demanding little except lip service to a few harmless platitudes.  I suspect that Satan has called off the attempt to convert people to agnosticism.  If a man travels far enough away from Christianity he is always in danger of seeing it in perspective and deciding that it is true.  It is much safer, from Satan’s point of view, to vaccinate a man with a mild case of Christianity, so as to protect him from the real thing.  (Chad Walsh, Early Christians of the 21st Century, p. 11)


However, nobody will be excluded from heaven solely because he or she has never heard of the name of Jesus.  The reason people will be denied admittance, said author and speaker Cliffe Knechtle, is because all life long they have told God that they can live just fine without him.  On the judgment day God will say, “Based on your own decision to live life separately from me, you will spend eternity separate from me.”  That’s hell.  God will not violate our will.  If all life long we have said, “My will be done,” then on the day of judgment God will say to you, “your will be done for eternity.”  G.K. Chesterton put it this way:  “Hell is God’s great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human choice.” ( Lee Stroble; God’s OUTrageous Claims, 194)


Do you believe that there really will be a judgment day?  It is on God’s calendar.  He has established it and will not erase it.  He will judge the whole world–me, you, everyone–by the one He has appointed to be the Judge, even Jesus.  That is bad news for the unbeliever, but it is very good news for the believer, because Jesus is also our defense attorney.  When believers go to the final judgment, we will have the Judge as our advocate.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 257)


Steve Brown:  Jesus will meet with you in the court of the last Judgement.  He will either be the prosecuting attorney, pushing for your conviction and condemnation; or He will be your defense lawyer to get you off.   And Jesus has never lost a case.


III-  King Jesus will one day make all of creation better than new.  But most reject Jesus’ values and agenda.  (Mt 8:33-34; see also: Mt 19:28; Jn 10:10; Rv 21:5)


This was incontrovertible evidence to the swineherds that something supernatural in origin had occurred.  It was also evidence to all who subsequently heard the story, that Jesus was ready to sacrifice the less important of God’s creatures in the interests of the highest.  He came to save men and women, and only men and women; though, as Paul foretold, the day will eventually come when the entire creation, groaning and travailing in pain at present, will be free to enjoy the liberty of the sons of God (see Rom 8:18-22).  Jesus, in this and similar actions, was sounding the death-knell of the forces of evil, but their complete defeat was not yet.  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 93-4)


To our modern eyes, this seems politically incorrect.  We can find ourselves wondering why Jesus had so little consideration for the pigs as to allow the demons to enter them.  Simply put, Jesus had a value system.  He believed that animals were made for man, not man for animals.  He did not see whales as more important than unborn babies.  The reason is that Jesus was sane, not locked in the insanity that is caused by sin.  Jesus wanted to redeem two suffering men, and if it cost the herd of pigs to do it, He did not see that as too high a cost.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 258)


They cared for nothing but the fact that their pigs were drowned and “their hope of making money was gone” (Acts 16:19).  They ignorantly regarded Jesus as one who stood between them and their profits, and they only wished to be rid of him.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 62)


We could never compare the value of a herd of swine with the value of a man’s immortal soul.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 323)


Here is human selfishness at its worst.  It did not matter to these people that two men had been given back their reason; all that mattered to them was that their pigs had perished.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 323)


This is not a story about mission but about power.  But whereas among the Jews his miracle-working power has attracted people to follow Jesus, here in the Decapolis they want to get rid of him.  For them he is not a messianic figure, but a wandering Jewish “holy man” whose activities have already caused a great deal of damage; he will be safer back among his own people.  It is strangely unflattering ending to the story, but it has reinforced Matthew’s message that Jesus is not like other people.  Before long we shall hear of similarly unflattering reactions to Jesus’ exorcistic activities even among his own people: his power is not doubted, but its course is called into question (9:34; 12:24).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 343)


They had at first simply come out “to see what it was that had happened,” but when “they came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had the ‘legion’;…they became frightened” (Mk 5:14-15).  They were not angry or resentful but scared.

When unholy men come face-to-face with the holy God, they are terrified.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 45-6)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does this text mean for me?:



A-  Jesus completely dominates Satan.  If you are “in Christ” you need never fear the Devil or his demons.  (Mt 4:1-11, 24; 9:32-34; 10:1-8; 12:22-29; 17:14-21; 28:18; Mk 1:26-39; 3:11-15, 22-26; 5:1-20; 6:7-13; 7:25-30; 9:14-29; Lk 4:33-41; 9:1, 42; 6:18; 7:21; 8:26-39; 11:14-26; 13:32; 22:31-32; Jn 12:30-31; 14:30-31; 17:15; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 10:38; 19:11-16; 26:18; Eph 1:18-23; 6:10-18; Col 2:15; Phil 3:9-11; Heb 2:14; Jam 4:7; 2 Pt 2:10-12; 1 Jn 2:13-14; 3:8; 4:1-4; Jude 6-10)


For Jesus to redeem the earth and reverse the curse, He would have to have total power over Satan and his demon hosts.  In order to rescue fallen humanity He would have to be able to overpower the evil forces that hold men in physical, mental, and spiritual bondage.  Throughout the gospel record, therefore, we repeatedly find accounts of Jesus’ ability to cast out demons from those under their evil control.  He exercised His power instantaneously, authoritatively, and with total success–often by the use of but a single word, as in the present instance.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 39-40)


By casting out demons during His earthly ministry, Jesus gave dramatic, powerful, and repeated evidence of His power over Satan.  As He explained to a multitude near Jerusalem, “If I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk 11:20).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 40)


As fallen angels, demons are extremely powerful beings (see 2 Kgs 19:35; Ps 103:20; 2 Pt 2:11).  When an angel was sent with a message for the prophet Daniel, he was delayed by a demon (called “the prince of the kingdom of Persia”) for three weeks, and the Lord had to send the archangel Michael to his aid (Dn 10:13).  It is therefore hardly surprising that Paul warns us that even as God’s own children we cannot withstand the attacks of demons apart from the Lord’s armor, especially the shield of faith (Eph 6:16).

Demons have superior intelligence (Ezek 28:3-4), superior strength (Mk 5:4; Acts 19:16), superior supernatural powers to perform “signs and false wonders” (2 Thes 2:9), and the superior experience of having existed long before the creation of God’s nature and power but also great knowledge of man’s nature and weaknesses.  As spirit beings they are not limited by time, space, or form.  Only the Lord Jesus Christ has the power to bruise Satan’s head and it will only be by the Lord’s power that he will be bound and cast into the abyss and eventually into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rv 20:3, 10).  It required tremendous power to cast out so many demons as Jesus did in the country of the Gadarenes, yet He did it in an instant.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 44)


In every case when confronted by Jesus, demons lost their power.  Jesus’ simple command, Go! showed the extent of his authority over the demons.  One word was enough.  He did not need to perform a lengthy exorcism.  God limits what evil spirits can do; these demons could do nothing without Jesus’ permission.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 168)


The Greek text of Matthew (v. 32) makes it clear that it was the demons who died in the water (apethanon is plural, whereas he agelē, the herd, is singular), although it is assumed that the pigs were drowned as well.  The entire episode would be a vivid demonstration to the demoniacs and to all observers that Jesus possessed authority over the realm of evil spirits.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 79-80)


Mark reports that one of the men “ran up and bowed down before Him” (5:6).  The word from which “bowed down” comes (proskuneō) is usually translated “worship,” because it represents the most common Near Eastern act of adoration and reverence.  The term carries the idea of profound awe and respect.  Demons hate and loathe everything about God, yet they are powerless to do anything but bow down before Him when in His presence–just as one day at His name every knee will “bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (Phil 2:10).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 42)


Accounts from both the Jewish and pagan worlds of the time show that exorcism was an accepted feature of the ministry of those who claimed to be men of God, though there are relatively few narratives of specific exorcisms in comparison with the prominence of this feature in the ministry of Jesus, who thus appears in Christian sources as the exorcist par excellence.  In his exorcisms, and especially in Matthew’s abbreviated version of this one, there is a striking lack of the quasimagical formulae and techniques (including the control of the demon by discovering its name) which seem to have been characteristic of other exorcists.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 338)


Should we practice spiritual disciplines?  Yes, we should.  But we should do so with the recognition that these disciplines are primarily means of polishing the armor that God has provided, so that we see his power more clearly (Rom. 13:12).  Practicing these habits in order to overpower Satan by our own discipline and diligence actually makes us more spiritually vulnerable.  We don the armor of God by faith, repenting of our own weaknesses and believing that each element of divine protection can resist the assaults of Satan as God has promised. (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 155)


The Bible speaks more about resisting the devil than it does about binding him. (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 108)


The devil can traffic in any area of darkness, even the darkness that still exists in a Christian’s heart.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 15)


Satan trembles when he sees

The weakest saint upon his knees.


For effective victory over Satan believers must recognize that on the basis of the work of Christ Satan is a defeated foe.  They are called upon to take a firm stand against the devil.  “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:7).  Any attempt to flee from the devil would be useless, but in claiming the victory of Christ man can put the devil to flight.  In order to experience victory over Satan believers cannot remain “ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor 2:11).  Recognizing that he is a powerful and crafty foe, they must “give no opportunity to the devil” by allowing sin in their lives (Eph 4:25-27).  Instead, they must “be sober, be watchful,” alert to the danger from the devil, and firmly resist him in faith (1 Pt 5:8, 9).  Eph 6:10-17 repeatedly stresses the need to take a firm stand against the satanic enemy. (The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible Q-Z, 285)


Let us recognize before we do warfare that the areas we hide in darkness are the very areas of our future defeat.  Often the battles we face will not cease until we discover and repent from the darkness that is within us.  If we will be effective in spiritual warfare, we must be discerning of our own hearts; we must walk humbly with our God.  Our first course of action must be, “Submit…to God.”  Then, as we “resist the devil…he will flee” (Jam 4:7).  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 16)


B-  In spite of the demons’ animosity towards God and their total commitment towards evil; they know better of Jesus’ identity, power, and authority than most Christians.  (Mt 8:29; Mk 3:11; Lk 4:41; 8:28; Jam 2:19)


It is interesting that the first creatures to recognize the true identity of Jesus that was hidden behind the veil of His humanity were these fallen angels.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 256)


Jesus in his earthly ministry is already introducing the eschatological “cleanup” of the forces of evil.  Mark has repeated references to demons knowing and declaring who Jesus is (Mk 1:24, 34; 3:11-12; 5:7), a theme which serves to offset the deliberately incognito style of Jesus’ public appearance in Mark.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 341)


We know what the disciples were thinking as they crossed the lake because it was stated at the end of the preceding story.  They were asking themselves, “What kind of a man is this?”  If we keep that in mind, it is amusing to discover in this story that while they were asking themselves this question, the demons had possessed two men, according to Matthew’s account, and they addressed Jesus boldly, crying, “What do you want with us, Son of God?…Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (v. 29).  Mark and Luke add that they called Jesus “Son of the Most High God” (Mk 5:7; Lk 8:28), and Luke says “they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (Lk 8:31).

It is worth reflecting on what the demons knew and were not afraid to announce, since their words reveal that they knew and believed more about Jesus than most human beings either know or acknowledge today.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 141)


At this time, people believed that to know an adversary’s full name was to be able to gain control over the person.  The demon in the synagogue had called Jesus “the Holy One of God,” but this demon referred to him as Son of God.  The demons recognized Jesus as God’s divine Son.  How ironic that people in Jesus’ day were so blind, while the demons were so clear about Jesus’ true identity.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 167)


We are told that the demoniacs were afraid of Jesus, because He “was not afraid of them,” and they knew Him, because “men with shattered reason also felt the spell, while the wise and the strong-minded often used their intellect, under the force of passion or prejudice, to resist the force of truth.  Possibly the last clause goes as far to explain some critics’ non-recognition of demoniacal possession as the first does to explain the demoniacs’ recognition of Jesus!  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 118)


“The life of Christianity consists of possessive pronouns” says Martin Luther.  It is one thing to say, “Christ is a Savior”; it is quite another thing to say, “He is my Savior and my Lord.” The devil can say the first; the true Christian alone can say the second. (Resource, July/August, 1990)


C-  No matter how desperately wrong things get here on earth, there is always hope because the Lord can redeem it and make it better than new.  (Mt 17:14-21; Jn 10:10; Rom 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; Rv 21:5)


Salvation comes when Jesus addresses our evil spirit of sin and drives it out, leaving us “sitting there” quietly, “dressed and in [our] right mind” (Mk 5:15).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 143)


The demons asked Jesus to leave them alone, for they had nothing to do with each other.  Such a question shows the demons’ ultimate rebellion.  Jesus and the demons were as far separated as anything could be.  Jesus’ purpose was to heal and give life; the demons’, to kill and destroy.  But Jesus would not leave these men in such a condition.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 166)


What compassion then was it, to rescue from so many deaths a man who was more than a thousand times ruined!  It was a magnificent display of the power of Christ, that by his voice not one devil, but a great multitude of devils, were suddenly driven out.  Legion denotes here not a definite number of men, but merely a great multitude.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 432)


According to Jewish ceremonial laws, the men Jesus encountered were unclean in three ways:  They were Gentiles (non-Jews), they were demon-possessed, and they lived in a graveyard.  Jesus helped them anyway.  We should not turn our backs on people who are “unclean” or repulsive to us, or who violate our moral standards and religious beliefs.  Instead, we must realize that every human individual is a unique creation of God, needing to be touched by his love.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 166)


Christ did not treat possession either as disease or as sin.  He seems never to have blamed the possessed, or to have suggested that they had brought the affliction on themselves.  They were great sufferers, and in His compassion He freed them from suffering.  (Alfred Plummer, Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 134)


Instead of inviting him into their city, or bringing their sick to him to be healed, they desired him to depart out of their coasts, as if they had borrowed the words of the devils, What have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Son of God?  And now the devils had what they aimed at in drowning the swine; they did it, and then made the people believe that Christ had done it, and so prejudiced them against him.  He seduced our first parents, by possessing them with hard thoughts of God, and kept the Gadarenes from Christ, by suggesting that he came into their country to destroy their cattle, and that he would do more hurt than good; for though he had cured two men, yet he had drowned two thousand swine.  Thus the devil sows tares in God’s field, does mischief in the Christian church, and then lays the blame upon Christianity, and incenses men against that.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 114)


He came to leave us “an example” that we should “follow in his steps” (1 Pt 2:21), But more:  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tm 1:15).  But even more; he came to destroy the devil (Heb 2:14) and to “disarm the principalities and powers” (Col 2:15).  But most of all, most broadly and cosmically of all, God sent his Son to unite or reconcile all things to him (Eph 1:10, Col 1:20).  That is, he sent Christ to restore a broken and rebellious universal kingdom. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.; Assurances of the Heart, 164)


To prevent these satanic strategies from succeeding, Christians need to employ several counterstrategies.  (1) They must keep themselves purposefully occupied, since idleness leads to sin and the devil’s accusations (1 Tm 5:13-15).  To counter Satan’s role as accuser of God’s people, (2) church discipline must never be so harsh as to imply the impossibility of forgiveness (2 Cor 2:6-11), and (3) only persons with a good reputation should be appointed to church office (1 Tm 3:2f., 7).  (4) To avoid temptation through lack of self-control, husbands and wives should not abstain too long from conjugal relations (1 Cor 7:5).  (5) New Christians, no matter how promising their gifts, should not be given responsible positions in the church, since Satan works to incite the inbred human tendency to self-exaltation (1 Tm 3:6).

The essence of Satan’s strategy, however, is to weaken a Christian’s faith in such precious and great promises as, e.g., Rom 8:38 (“in everything God works for good with those who love him”), by means of the lie that the tribulations and misfortunes that befall Christians can deprive them of any hope for a bright future (1 Thes 3:2-5).  Satan’s game plan is to destroy the Christian’s confidence that God’s plans are “for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).  So to be victorious against Satan, Christians must understand the necessity of being armed with “the shield of faith” i.e., of having an arsenal of promises from God’s word (cf. Rom 10:17) ready for use as a shield to quench all the fiery darts of Satan (Eph 6:16).  According to 1 Pt 5:9 Christians must resist the devil steadfastly in the faith.  Since the promises of Scripture are the proper object of faith (Rom 4:20), Christians must use, against each temptation to become discouraged, at least one of God’s “many and very great promises” (2 Pt 1:4).  If tempted, e.g., to be covetous and despondent about not having enough of this world’s goods to be financially secure, the Christian must “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tm 6:12) by affirming that, since God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5f.), covetousness is totally contrary to childlike faith in God.  By meditating on this and similar promises of “the faithful God” (Dt 7:9; cf. Heb 10:23; Ti 1:2) until filled by “all joy and peace in believing” (Rom 15:13), Christians perform the essential task of holding their “first confidence firm unto the end” (Heb 3:14). (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Volume Four: Q-Z, 343)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who has decisively proven that life with Him is safe and secure. (Jam 4:7)


Jesus is the Son of God, with all authority over disease, disaster, and demons, and nothing can touch us apart from His sovereign power and in accordance with His sovereign will.  We, as followers of Christ, are the most secure people in the world, and our security is not based on how big our house is, how good our job is, how stable our economy is, or who our president is.  We are secure simply because we are in the hands of the One who has all authority in the whole world, and because this One with all authority loves us and cares for us.  God is committed to providing for us in the midst of struggles with sin, demons, natural disasters, and various diseases.  Hear, then, Christ’s question in verse 26:  “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?”  How can we not trust such a Savior?  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 114-5)


If doctrine becomes our emphasis, we are being led astray.  We are not changed by doctrine; we are changed by seeing Jesus (2 Cor 3:18).  Anointed teachings are essential for the nourishment of the Christ that is being formed within us, but whenever a truth becomes our focus, it will distract us.  For this reason Satan often comes as an angel of light, or “messenger of truth.”  Truth can deceive us.  Only in the Truth, Jesus, is there life.  He did not come just to teach us truth; He came to be Truth.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 81)


Gospel Application:  Jesus sacrificed to undo the works of the Devil.


Only when we know that we have been clothed by His righteousness can we be comfortable in His presence.  Until we are so clothed, we will tremble before Him–just as the demons did (Jam 2:19).  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 259)


The Devil’s Beatitudes

If the Devil were to write his Beatitudes, they would probably look like this:

BLESSED are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in Church…they are my best workers.

BLESSED are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked…I can use them.

BLESSED are the touchy; with a bit of luck, they may stop going to church…they are my missionaries.

BLESSED are those who are very religious, but get on everyone’s nerves…they are mine forever.

BLESSED are the troublemakers…they shall be called my children.

BLESSED are those who have no time to pray…they are easy prey for me.

BLESSED are the gossipers…for they are my secret agents.

BLESSED are those critical of church leadership…for they shall inherit a place with me in my fate.

BLESSED are the complainers…I’m all ears for them.

BLESSED are you when you read this and think it is about other people and not yourself…I’ve got you.


Spiritual Challenge:  Trust in Jesus and do not fear the Devil or even give him a foothold.



Satan fears virtue.  He is terrified of humility; he hates it.  He sees a humble person and it sends chills down his back.  His hair stands up when Christians kneel down, for humility is the surrender of the soul to God.  The devil trembles before the meek because, in the very areas where he once had access, there stands the Lord, and Satan is terrified of Jesus Christ.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 21)


The most dangerous Christians are those who have forgotten their tendency to sin–and Satan’s agenda to capitalize on that tendency.  When Satan is allowed to move in the shadows, forgotten and without restraint, his power can be tremendous.  Thoughtful Christians have never forgotten that we have an enemy as well as a Savior.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 173)


It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”   Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  (Charles Spurgeon)


Quotes to Note:

Why did Jesus allow the demons to go into the pigs and let the pigs perish?  Some have complained that Jesus was inconsiderate in regard to those who owned the pigs.  Others say the pigs were probably owned by Jews and that Jesus was punishing them for raising these forbidden animals.  The actual reason is probably the same as the reason Jesus healed the paralyzed man in the next story, that is, as a visible proof of what had happened.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 143)


It is a direct confrontation between two spiritual authorities.  The two men who were involved as the “hosts” of the demons are little more than part of the scenery:  Jesus’ dialogue is with the demons, not with the men, and nothing is said of the fate of the men after the demons have been expelled.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 339)


TACTICS AND WEAPONS FOR RESISTING THE DEVIL:  We are commanded to “resist” the devil, to take a stand against him, now!  Those intent on submitting to God ask, “how?”  God has not left us without battle plans.  Here are some of his instructions:

  • Refuse to accept Satan’s suggestion that we can be separated from Christ (Rom 8:38-39)
  • Ignore the temptation to doubt God’s grace (1 Jn 3:19-24)
  • Reject the lie that we are beyond forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9)
  • Pray before, during, and after attacks by the devil (Phil 4:4-7; 1 Thes 5:16-24; Jas 1:2-8)
  • Allow Christ to replace our way of thinking with his way of thinking (Phil 2:5-8; 4:8-9; Rom 12:1-2).


WEAPONS: While the devil employs weapons of terror and illusion, God equips us with weapons of real power. They are only ineffective when we leave them unused.  Among them are:  The belt of truth–wherever the truth is spoken and lived, the devil is unwelcome (Eph 6:14; Jn 8:32; 14:6; 17:17).  The breastplate of righteousness–living rightly is the result of advanced training in the faith.  When we are living under God’s guidance we are on guard against the devil’s attacks (Eph 6:14; Heb 5:12-14; 1 Pt 2:12).  The footwear of the gospel of peace–communicating the gospel is taking back territory controlled by the devil (Eph 6:15; Mt 24:14; Rom 1:16).  The shield of faith–our faith in Christ makes him our shield and protector (Eph 6:16; Heb 11:1; 1 Pt 1:3-5). The helmet of salvation–the salvation that God offers is our eternal protection (Eph 6:17; 1 Thes 5:8-9; Rom 1:16).  The sword of the Spirit, God’s Word–the Bible is a weapon when its truth is put to use, exposing the devil’s work and helping those who are losing the battle (Eph 6:17; 2 Tm 3:16; Heb 4:12). Prayer–in prayer we rely on God’s help (Eph 6:18-20; Heb 4:16; Jas 5:13-16)  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 102-03)


. . . the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. — 1 John 4:4







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