And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Matthew lets us know there were two men who came out. Mark and Luke mention only one man. Critics claim this shows the bible is not inerrant. Matthew said there were two men. Mark and Luke said one. At first glance, it appears either Mark and Luke erred or, Matthew erred. But it is the critics who err.
They assume Mark and Luke claim only one man. Their assumption is the error. There is a simple explanation why Mark and Luke only mention one of the two. The most likely reason is only one man spoke. He, probably, was the most violent. That is why Mark and Luke only mention the one. Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience. So, Matthew’s concern was having two witnesses.
The two men come out and cried “What have you to do with us” This is a Hebrew idiom. In this context, it meant, “What have I to do with you? What do we have in common? Leave me alone!” The hostility between Jesus and the demons is clear. Hence the translation: “Leave us alone”
There was an appointed time in which demons would face their judgment. They appear to have seen Jesus’ arrival as God changing His plan.
The demons ask for Jesus to allow them to go into the swine. Jesus said, “Go.” This was not a command. Rather it was permission. But why would they ask to go into the swine? And why would Christ allow it? There are many who claim Christ sent them into the swine as punishment. Swine were unclean. But that does not ring true. They asked permission to enter the swine.
It was unlawful for Jews to keep swine. So John Wesley believed that is why Jesus allowed them to enter the swine. But this is a Gentile area and so there is little probability the owners were Jewish.
John Calvin said It was because they wanted to destroy God’s message. Destroying the herd would cause the townspeople to chase Jesus away.
The exact reason is not given. But we know God allowed Satan to destroy Job’s house and cattle. Satan did not do it because he hated cattle and houses. He did it because he hated God. Satan wants to destroy God’s plan. One thing is certain, the demons had more in mind than pigs. But nothing can alter or harm God’s plan. This is in agreement with Augustine.
But I disagree with all three. I know that I am treading on dangerous ground when I disagree with such learned, scholarly, and Godly men. But the answer lies in asking, “Who was Matthew addressing with this gospel.” His audience was Jewish.
A first-century Jewish audience saw this as Jesus cleansing the land. Even today pigs are not allowed to touch Israeli soil. True there are pigs in Israel. But they are raised on platforms. The pigs live on these platforms. So they never touch the ground. Unrighteous men are always looking for loopholes. They saw the demons in the swine as a natural place of residence. Pigs were unclean and that is where demons belonged.
When the pigs killed themselves the herdsmen ran off and told the entire town what had happened. They made special note of what had happened to the demon-possessed men.
The people of the town came out and asked Jesus to leave. It was not because the herd of pigs killed themselves. It was because Jesus had proven his righteousness. People are uncomfortable in the presence of someone more righteous than they.
Place this lesson in context. It comes right after Jesus claims the storm. There Jesus’ power frightened the disciples. Do not think how wonderful it is to see God in His glory. Without the clothing of Jesus’ righteousness, we will see ourselves for who we are. We are wretched sinners. We are sinners deserving punishment and death.
But if you trust in Christ alone for salvation. Christ covers you with His righteousness and you enjoy peace with God.