Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: All
From: Su Min
Subject: Gergesenes

My precious family,
The word of God comes to us today from Matt 8:28-34. A parallel passage is found in Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39.

Jesus is in the midst of His wandering ministry around the northern regions of Israel. He has just left the crowds in Capernaum and crossed the sea of Galilee in a boat, quelling a sudden violent life threatening storm by His very command. His destination is the quieter east shore of Lake Galilee.

They sailed to the other side, across the Lake from Galilee to the country of Gergesenes (Gadarenes, Gerasenes)(Matt 8:28, Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26). The region of the south east shore of the Galilean Sea is called Decapolis, because of the ten towns in the vicinity. My bible notes tells me that Gergesenes, Gadarenes and Gerasenes were 3 similarly named towns all nearby.

There Jesus immediately met as he stepped out onto the land, a long term demon possessed man with an unclean spirit, came out from amongst the tombs where he dwelled, wearing no clothes, living not in a house. (Matt 8:28 records two demon possessed men: Mark and Luke speak of one only: we assume that there were two but Mark and Luke chose to focus on a representative one: I have rendered the text to the singular so we will look at one man and many pigs Mark 5:2, Luke 8:26)

The man was exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way (Matt 8:28).
No one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, nigh and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones (Mark 5:3-5). The demon possessed man was unsociable, and had been cast out of society. With no proper home to live in, he lived amongst the tombs, undressed, unkempt, probably foraging for scraps or eating swine fodder, tortured and tormented, repeatedly cutting himself with the stones that lay about.

And when he saw Jesus from afar off, he ran and fell down before him and worshipped him. He suddenly cried out in a loud voice saying, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, You Son of the Most High God? Have you come here to torment me before the time? I beg you, I implore you, by God, not to torment me" (Matt 8:29, Mark 5:7-8, Luke 8:28) It appears that it was not the man himself who spoke, but the demons within, for they recognised Jesus, and knew that they were destined for eternal torment at the last judgement, but claimed that the time was not yet.

For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man saying "Come out of the man, unclean spirit". For it had often seized him, and he was bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness (Mark 5:8, Luke 8:29)

Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" And he said "Legion, for we are many", because many demons had entered him. (Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30)

Also they begged Him earnestly that he would not send them out of the country, that he would not command them to go out into the abyss (Mark 5:10, Luke 8:31) (The abyss of destruction: Rev 9:1, 11:7, 20:1,30.) The many many evil spirits that had entered the demon possessed man knew that Jesus was going to liberate the man and cast the demons out. They pleaded to be given a reprieve, to be not sent to eternal damnation just yet. Legion wanted to linger on earth for a while longer to perhaps possess a few more bodies and claim their souls for the prince of darkness.

Now a good way off from them was a large herd of many swine feeding there near and on the mountains (Matt 8:30, Mark 5:11, Luke 8:32).

So all the demons begged Him, saying, "If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine. Send us to them that we may enter them." And at once Jesus gave them permission.(Matt 8:31 Mark 5:12-13. Luke 8:32)

And He said to them "Go". So when the demons had come out of the man, they went into the herd of swine and entered the swine (there were about two thousand of them). And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea and perished in the water. (Matt 8:32 Luke 8:33).

Those who fed the swine fled and they went away into the city and told everything to the city and the country including what had happened to the demon possessed men (Matt 8:33, Mark 5:14, Luke 8:29).

And behold the whole city came out to meet Jesus and to see what it was that happened (Matt 8:34, Mark 5:14 ).

Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon possessed and had the legion, from whom the demons had departed, sitting down at the feet of Jesus and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.( Mark 5:15 Luke 8:35)

And those who saw it told them by what means he who had been demon possessed was healed and how it happened to him who had been demon possessed and about the swine. (Mark 5:16 Luke 8:36)

And the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes begged Jesus to depart from their region, for they were seized with great fear (Matt 8:34, Mark 5:17, Luke 8:37).

Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus did not permit him. Jesus sent him away saying, "Return to your own house. Go home to your friends and tell them what great things God has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you". And he departed and went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city and in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him. And all marvelled.(Mark 5:19-20, Luke 8:38-39)

And so too we marvel as we study what great things Jesus has done for this man who had been demon possessed.. When I look at the relative amount of text dedicated to recording this miracle across three gospels, it seems to me that it emphasises how much important is the spiritual dimension of life here on earth. Many of us take life on earth as permanent and physical, but putting on the 3-D goggles of Biblical Reality ( three dimension: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit), we can see that there is a spiritual dimension even while we are on earth. Spiritual warfare is real: the devil is most pleased when you do not believe that he exists: that's a hell of an idea! "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, ... but against the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6:12).

We are not told if the demon possession was the result of personal sin or just part of the great spiritual battle. We must guard against being demon possessed: mixing with cultists and dabbling in black magic are steps in open in the door to our souls to these dark denizens. Jesus warns us in Luke 11:14-26 of how we are to guard our soul by being on the same of the spiritual battle with Jesus.

Jesus saw the demon possessed man and had compassion on him and healed him. This compassion for others is a Christ-like attribute that we should all strive for. Compassion. Strong's Concordance 4697. Splagchnizomai "splangkh-nid-zom-ahee", to have the bowels yearn, to feel sympathy, to pity, to be moved with compassion. Our feelings for the deprived, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the prisoner, the oppressed should reach deep down inside us to our very bowels, that our innards churn and yearn to relieve their distress.

The response of the healed man was that of gratitude and obedience, He was found seated and clothed and in his right mind. He wanted to stay be Jesus. But our Lord commanded him to return home and tell all what great things God has done for him. And he departed proclaimed throughout Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him. We, who have been liberated from the great demon, we who have Christ dwelling within us, should likewise undertake the great commission, to tell to the world the good news, and to testify of what great things God has done for us, and how he has shown us compassion. We, like hungry beggars who have found bread, should tell other beggars how to get bread too.

Yes the crowds were amazed. They marvelled at the miraculous healing of the demon possessed. And they were afraid at this awesome display of a spiritual battle. But to their shame, and to their eternal loss, having been witness to the supreme power of the Son of God over matters spiritual, they rejected him, and asked him to depart. They were afraid that if he were to cure more demon possessed, they would lose more swine. The threat of financial loss weighed more heavily to them than the opportunity of spiritual gain.

Yes, my beloved, what is our response to this miraculous spiritual cleansing. Will we stare in wonder and amazement at Jesus, enjoy the spectacle and the entertainment, then slink away to tend to our own business? Or will we submit to Jesus as Lord of our life, and then go and tell the world of the great things God has done for us?

Let us pray.

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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