The Scriptorium

Ruler of Spirits

Wind, seas, demons - He rules the world! Matthew 8.28-34

Matthew 8: Setting Things Right (6)

Pray Psalm 40.1-3.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the LORD.

Sing Psalm 40.1-3.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
I waited patiently for God; He inclined and heard my cry,
lifted me up above the sod, set me on a Rock on high!
New songs in my mouth He gave; may He through me many save.

Read Matthew 8.1-34; meditate on verses 28-34.

1. How did Jesus dispatch these demons? What does that tell us?

2. What’s different about the people’s response to this incident?

Imagine the years of torment and misery these two men must have endured. Consider how their condition must have affected the people around them. They were fierce, intractable, unmanageable, and out of control (v. 28). This is the horror of sin. And what we see in these men is a microcosm of the powerful effects of sin in the world. What we see in Jesus is the power of divine reconciliation and restoration.

Clearly the demons that possessed these men knew Who Jesus was; and they knew what He had done in binding their ruler (Matt. 4.1-11). The demons anticipated that Jesus would “torment” them. If only. He has more devastating plans for them than that, and we get a glimpse of those plans as He casts the demons out here (cf. Rev. 19.7-15).

The demons knew they were done for, so they pled for a measure of mercy from the Lord. It seems strange that Jesus would grant their request to be cast out and sent into a herd of swine. But their request was merely the means of accomplishing His will. Spiritual wickedness in high places affects not only people, but other aspects of the creation as well. Jesus allowed their request, but showed that He intended to use it for their destruction. The swine plummeting into the sea prefigures the ultimate casting of Satan and his ilk in the lake of fire, forever to be in torment. It also recalls the rebels under Dathan being swallowed up the by the earth in Numbers 16. Note the power of Jesus’ one word: “Go.” As Martin Luther wrote, “One little word shall fell him [the devil].”

It might seem harsh that the herd of swine perished as well. On the other hand, these people were presumably Jews. What were they doing, keeping a herd of unclean creatures? Is there a word of judgment and of enforcing God’s Law – a warning or admonition – attached to this?

As has happened so often before, the people who hear about Jesus come flocking out to Him. But things are different now. The power Jesus displayed, and the dramatic way these men were healed struck fear into the people of that city. The begged Jesus “to depart from their region.” They feared His Presence among them. What else might He expose about them? What further demonstrations of power might He foist upon them?

Typical of those who are caught up in sin, the people were thinking only of themselves. There is no expression of joy or wonder or gratitude for the healing of the demoniacs, only fear that something bad might happen to them. Caught up with fear for their own interests and wellbeing, they could not see the wonder of grace that occurred.

How like our world today are these Gergesenes! Jesus, the embodiment of God’s power and Law, “triggered” fear in them, so – like the schools, courts, public squares, and, sadly, many churches today – they ran Him off. Sin is a terrible blinding force.

1. Why does it make sense that Jesus was able to cast out these demons?

2. What would you have said to the people who came out to Jesus, if you had been present then?

3. How does sin affect the way people see the world? Think about God?

On seeing him, the Gerasenes entreated the Lord to depart from their district. Such people are also found among us. Out of faithlessness they compel the Lord and Savior of the world to depart from the district of their hearts, for according to Scripture, “the Holy Spirit will not enter a perverse soul or dwell in a body enslaved to sin.”
Chromatius (fl. 400), Tractate on Matthew 43.7

Cleanse me, O Lord, of all that is unclean, and send me forth with Your Word to…

Pray Psalm 40.4-17.
Meditate on the wonderful works God has done for you. Tell them back to Him with praise and thanksgiving. Offer yourself and your day to do His will, according to all His Word. With whom will you share the “good news of righteousness” today?

Sing Psalm 40.4-17.
Psalm 40.4-17 (Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Blessed are all who trust in You, turning both from lies and pride.
Countless wonders, Lord, You do, and Your thoughts with us abide.
Lord, Your worth who can declare? None with You can e’er compare.

Off’rings You do not require – open now my ears, O Lord.
What from me do You desire? Firm delight to do Your Word.
Take my life in ev’ry part; write Your Law upon my heart.

Lord, Your truth will I proclaim to Your people gathered ‘round,
nor will I my lips restrain – let Your precious ways resound!
Of Your saving grace and Word I would speak, most loving Lord.

Keep Your mercy not from me; let Your love and truth prevail.
Evil and iniquity make my trembling heart to fail.
Lord, be pleased to rescue me! Let my shelter with You be.

Bring to shame my ev’ry foe, all who would my life destroy;
Bring them down to scorn and woe who at my hurt sing for joy.
Let them come to grief and shame who heap scorn upon my name.

Let them shout for joy and sing who in saving grace delight!
Let them praise to Jesus bring, though affliction be their plight.
Christ, our help, our Savior He! Of us ever mindful be!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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