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Sunday, January 24, 2010

1/24/10 Matthew 8:28-34 Caring for the Desperately Different

1/24/10- Matthew 8:28-34 (pp.Mk 5:1-20; Lk 8:26-39)

28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" 30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs." 32 He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Calvin abridged: Matthew mentions two while Mark and Luke mention one demoniac. Augustine (and I agree) that there were two, but the one demoniac so far outshone the other that the other two writers do not mention the second man. This man was kept among the dead by an unclean spirit. Mark says that the man could not be bound with chains implying that the evil spirit empowered him to break them. The devil does his part when God permits him. When Christ summons them, they appear before him, and Mark says they reluctantly worship him. “What do you want with us- do you wish to torture us before the appointed time?” With their pride they still breathe nothing but rebellion against God; yet though they never cease to struggle against God’s government, they are compelled to yield. “Legion”- Christ had compassion to save this man from a multitude of demons- a thousand deaths. “Swine”- It is certain that the devils wanted to stir up the residents there against God because of the loss of their pigs. For those who think that the demons are not real, but only depraved affections of people, they need to answer how covetousness, ambition, cruelty and deceit enter into swine. Though we are not tortured by the devil, yet he holds us as slaves until the Son of God delivers us from his tyranny giving us a sound mind.

Thoughts: Here was a man desperately losing his mind, wandering naked, uncontrollable among the tombs. I remember a similar story with a sadder end from my grandfather about a “wildman” in the mountains of South Carolina who ran around unkempt, long straggly hair, long nails, acting wild- staying away from people. Whenever he would stray into town people would scream and yell and the police would try to catch him. He died at an early age. But this Wildman in the Gerasene- the non-jewish region on the north of the Sea of Galilee had a better end. He ran into Jesus, who helped his mind, his body, and his spirit. The horrible thing here is that the people of the area cared more about their pigs (which were unclean to the jews) than this human being. One of the political candidates for governor for our state tried to discourage giving food to the needy- lest they become too dependent-like feeding a stray animal. I doubt this fellow has really been hungry, for the alternative to not feeding them is to starve them (especially in an environment where there are no new jobs). When Jesus saw the 5,000 he had compassion on them and made bread when there was none. Hungry people are desperate people, and I don’t think this politician wants food riots or rampant begging or stealing, or people dying on the streets. The people of Gerasene cared more about their pigs than they did about their neighbor- because he was different. But Jesus had compassion, and we all are called to have compassion. This doesn’t mean to not develop long term means to help the hungry- that is just as important. But to not feed them at all would be harsh. Churches will help the hungry (like through our local food pantry- We Care), but the 45% who do not attend church regularly need to play a role too, and that is done through the government. It is for everyone’s good that we do not have stealing or begging. In many other countries, begging is the order of the day and is everywhere. These men came to Jesus with their demons, and Jesus did something to help them. Yesterday an ex-marine died after he saved five people from a boarding house set on fire by arsonists. We do not need to be the arsonists in this story. We need to seek to rescue those from the fire. How can we turn away from those who have mental, physical, or spiritual needs pretending they are not there?

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your compassion on the hurting. Help me to have compassion too.

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