Authority over Demonic Forces: Exorcising
Demons Matthew 8:28-34
The Legitimacy of Demon Possession
8:28 And when
he was come to the other side of the country of the
Gadarenes, there met him two possessed with demons,
coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no
man might pass that way.
That part of the eastern shore of the
Sea of Galilee "in the tetrarchy of Philip, and was part
of the Jewish land; for Jesus, who confined himself to his
own people, traveled in this tetrarchy as far north as
Caesarea Philippi, He was on Jewish territory." (Lenski,
p. 341) Edersheim has quite a dramatic description of the
scene, picturing it as occurring at night, and mentions
the steep cliff and the limestone caves which served as
tombs, which were occupied by the demon possessed men.
The two men are described as "possessed
with demons" which is a participle, "being
demonized." This has led some writers to deny the
possibility of actual possession, preferring to
believe in something less, like oppression or
control of some sort. However, Jesus said to one of
the demonized, "Come out of the man, thou unclean
spirit" (Mark 5:8), and even one of the demons, when
speaking to Jesus, said, "If thou cast us out, permit
us to go away into the herd of swine" (Matthew 8:31).
This is more than merely operating from the outside; it is
inhabitation of the bodies of these men; thus, demon
possession is real!
These men were "exceedingly fierce,"
and the one is described as "having been often bound with
chains and fetters, and the chains had been plucked
asunder by him and the fetters broken in pieces" (Mark
5:4). He was untamable and was "cutting himself with
stones" (Mark 5:5). Certainly their minds were affected as
well as their bodies, but this is not mental illness as
such; it is the work of demons. Later, in Matthew 12:24-29
the question as to whether or not a real believer can be
demon possessed will be discussed. There is no reason to
doubt that an unbeliever can be so possessed that the
demon can speak through his vocal cords and be able to
demonstrate superhuman strength through his body.
The Limitation of demon possession.
They recognize the Person of Christ as
Sovereign over them. 8:29a
behold, they cried out saying, "What have we to do with
thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?"
Mark 5:6-10 gives much more of the
conversation between Jesus and the demons. Not only do
they recognize Him as "Son of the Most High God"
but actually fall down and worship before Him (Luke 8:28;
Mark 5:6). This is further proof that this is not merely
mental illness; James 2:18 reminds us that "the demons
believe and tremble."
They recognize the Purpose of Christ to
torment them in the Abyss. 8:29b
8:29b "Art thou
come here to torment us before the time?"
Surprisingly, these demons are aware of
God’s plan for them, yet they can only worship Christ out
of fear, not of love. They tremble before Him, knowing
that they, along with Satan, will be cast into the "deep"
(Luke 8:31) or the "abyss," which is always translated
"bottomless pit" in Revelation 9:1-2, 11; 11:7; 17:18;
20:1-3. Eventually they, along with all unbelievers, will
be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10-15). So
now, they wonder how and why, the Lord has come to speed
up the process, as it were, before the appointed time!
They recognize the Power of Christ over
there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine
feeding, So the demons besought him saying, "If thou
cast us out, permit us to go away into the swine."
Once again Mark provides specific
details not recorded by Matthew, giving the number of the
swine as "about two thousand" (5:13) and the number of the
demons: "My name is legion, for we are many." In
the Roman army, according to best authorities, one legion
contained from 3000 to 6000 soldiers. Our sure knowledge
of the spirit world is confined to Scripture, and apart
from this incident we have only a few others where actual
numbers of demons in a person are mentioned. Christ cast
out seven demons from Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9)
and one man was possessed by a demon who later brought
seven more unclean spirits, who, by the way, are
described as "more wicked than himself" to enter
and dwell there (Matthew 12:45).
This number, Legion, is astounding when
compared with seven or eight! There is also the strange
request of the demons to be permitted to inhabit the two
thousand swine. Since the "time" of their torment
had not yet arrived they said, "What have we to do with
thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?" (v. 29). If they were
pleading on the settled purpose of God, then that would
certainly have to go according to plan; but just why they
asked for this specific alternative is difficult to
8:32 And he
said unto them, "Go," And when they were come out, they
went into the herd of swine; and behold, the whole herd
of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea,
and perished in the waters.
If the herdsmen and/or the owners of the
swine were Jews, then it may be that the Lord allowed this
destruction of a large herd of animals as a graphic rebuke
of their disobedience in owning and profiting from unclean
swine. This could also be of some help in explaining why
the demons requested this alternative to the embodying of
two men. God had used "a lying spirit" to persuade King
Ahab to go to Ramoth-Gilead (I Kings 12:19-23), so it is
possible that God would allow this unusual circumstance to
remind these Jews that He still expected obedience to His
After the demons entered the swine and
caused their drowning, they must have been free to
continue their evil works elsewhere until the time of
their coming judgment.
The liberation from demon possession.
The Effect on the Two Men. 8:33
8:33 And they
that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city,
and told everything, and what was befallen to those
possessed with demons.
Matthew’s abbreviated account does not
include the details of the healing, the new self-control
and the desire to remain with Jesus. Jesus did not grant
this request; instead, He told the man to go home and tell
his friends what the Lord had done for him and how He had
compassion on him.
The Effect on the people of Gadara. 8:34
behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when
they saw him, they besought him that he would depart
from their borders.
You would have thought that the positive
results on the men formerly possessed with demons might
have made a positive impression of the Gadarenes, and that
immediately they would have welcomed Jesus, and accepted
Him as the long-awaited Messiah/King. Instead, they
reacted negatively, and wanted to thrust Him out of their
city. God, however, is never frustrated, so the final word
is that Jesus would not allow the healed man to follow
Him. Instead, the man "departed and began to publish in
Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and
all the men did marvel" (Mark 5:20).
Were any of these men saved? Only "in
the fulness of time" will we know the answer to that