#69 – What the Gospels Teach – The Preference of People – Matthew 8:28-34

When He came 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 extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And He said to them, "Go!" And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34 NASB)

Obviously there is a lot to cover in this passage and there are countless applications and implications that will not be addressed here, however one observation about this passage is absolutely startling and has received little attention, at least in my experience.  If you read the last sentence in this passage you will find the words “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”  This idea that the people came out of the city to convince Christ to leave their region shows that He had done something which they felt threatened by, or uncomfortable with, at the very least what He had done had troubled them deeply. Why?

Jesus shows up and a couple demon possessed guys who were incredibly violent come out of the tombs, the demons fear the Lord, the Lord casts them into a heard of swine (unclean animals) the swine kill themselves.  The demon possessed men are healed, the swine are dead, and the people have had enough and implored Christ to leave.  There is a major contrast here, first why are the people mad?  The herdsman kept a flock of swine, and the swine got killed.  Needless to say this had to have been pretty rough on the herdsman, Christ allowed their heard to be destroyed, which indeed would destroy the livelihood of those herdsmen.  The people of the city received the news about Christ from the herdsman who had already lost their heard and were obviously distraught and disturbed, and most certainly biased against Jesus when they reported to the city.  At the same time they also reported what happened to the demoniacs, the very men who were so possessed that nobody could even pass them without being injured.  In one sense, this event was tragic, as the livelihoods of those herdsmen were destroyed, yet in another sense this was miraculous as these two violent demoniacs were restored.

The reaction of the people shows just how far from righteousness, and how hardened they really were.  First of all, why were the people herding swine in the first place?  Second, why would the people not rejoice at the restoration of fellow man?  The people had become so callous that they preferred the preservation of evil demons, and unclean beasts, over the restoration of fellow man and the end of their violent possession.  The people preferred violence and uncleanness over righteousness and restoration so “the implored Him to leave their region.”  These people had drifted so far from the righteousness of God that they preferred the preservation of evil, and were very much against the casting out of it.  When Christ came and healed these men and put an end to an unclean practice of herding swine the people preferred the demons over the Christ, and people do the very same thing today.

When a person is converted, genuinely, and they begin to reject the practices of the world, the television, the magazines, the novels, the smut, even the gluttony, immodesty, and other vices of the sinful world they are not viewed at all as recipients of a miracle even though that is exactly what they are.  Instead the world, and often the Church alienates and isolates the truly zealous convert who is altogether reformed into something far more pleasant, kind, generous, and caring.  Why?  Well for one thing much of the world makes its living off of vice, and the convert no longer contributes to their occupational well being.  Just like the herdsmen did not profit from the demons being cast out of the violent men.  The second and maybe the primary reason is that the tangible ‘cleanliness’ or righteousness of the believer is evidence that there is an actual attainable superior morality to that of their own.  Of course that superior life is available through Jesus Christ and living into that grace filled life threatens those who are content to live with unrighteousness.  This reminds us of the rest of the city who came out to tell Him to leave, not because He had done anything wrong, but because His righteousness and ability to destroy evil threatened them.

The bottom line is that when Christ acts in righteousness the non elect will implore Him to leave, while the elect will be converted and choose to follow Him.  (I do not mean to open a can of worms about election, free will, etc..., maybe some other time.)

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