Matthew’s story is shorter than Mark or Luke’s. He seems to want to centre on where this took place and what Jesus did to the demons found in these 2 men (which Mark and Luke only report of one of those men).
“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. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” 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. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.” (Matthew 8 v 28-34)
Discipleship is Mission
- To people who need freedom not judgment
They sailed across the Sea of Galilee to a place occupied by Hellenistic Jews. These people were Jews but were heavily influenced by the Greek language and culture. There was such a blending together of Jewish and Greek cultures that it formed a sub-culture. The region was also known as the Decapolis, simply meaning ten cities. If you came from that region then you were not a pure Jew like those found in Jerusalem and Judea, you came from a different school of thought, you had a mixture of belief.
Today we can easily look at people in a certain way and focus only on the contradiction of their life. Or we can cross the lake and go to a small group, to two, or even one and change their world. Everybody is worth the journey. Get past those contradictions to see human beings who need Jesus.
The demons wanted to know if the final torment was now. Jesus doesn’t answer them. He just commands them to ‘Go’. It may look like they got their wish. But it actually shows that their thought of this being their appointed time was actually correct. They didn’t know the pigs would run down the hill to be destroyed in the sea. But we can be assured that Jesus did. He wasn’t letting them escape. He was destroying them back into the abyss.
2. To people who are more valuable than possessions.
The Jews would love this story from Matthew. We can almost see them roll their eyes at this sub-culture, impure cross-breed of a believer. A story centred on pigs but then ends revealing how the town loved seemingly their pigs more than the restored men would cause the pure Jew to scoff. Interestingly the very next story will reveal even the ‘pure’ love their traditions more than a paralysed man being healed.
People need freedom from the demons that cause havoc in this world, they don’t need more judgment because they are impure.
People are more important than our history, traditions, possessions and agendas.
This is mission and as disciples we have signed up for exactly this.