GOSPEL READING: Matthew 8:28-34
28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 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?” 30 Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.
Meditation: Do you ever feel driven by forces beyond your strength? Two men who were possessed and driven mad by the force of many evil spirits found refuge in the one person who could set them free. Both Mark and Luke in their Gospel accounts of this incident describe this demonic force as a legion (Mark 5:9 and Luke 8:30). A legion is no small force but an army 6,000 strong! For the people of Palestine who were often hemmed in by occupied forces, a legion – whether human or supernatural – struck terror! Legions at their wildest committed unmentionable atrocities. Our age has also witnessed untold crimes and mass destruction at the hands of possessed rulers and their armies.
No force can withstand Christ’s power and authority
What is more remarkable – the destructive force of these driven and possessed men, or their bended knee at Jesus’ feet imploring mercy and release (Luke 8:28)? God’s word reminds us that no destructive force can keep anyone from the peace and safety which God offers to those who seek his help. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. ..Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation (Psalm 91:7,9).
Jesus took pity on these men who were overtaken by a legion of evil spirits. The destructive force of these demons is evident for all who can see as they flee and destroy a herd of swine. After Jesus freed the demoniacs the whole city came out to meet him. No one had demonstrated such power and authority against the forces of Satan as Jesus did. They feared Jesus as a result and begged him to leave them. Why would they not want Jesus to stay? Perhaps the price for such liberation from the power of evil and sin was more than they wanted to pay.
Jesus will free us from anything that binds us
The Lord Jesus is ready and willing to free us from anything that binds us and that keeps us from the love of God. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from his love and saving power?
Lord Jesus, unbind me that I may love you wholly and walk in the freedom of your way of love and holiness. May there be nothing which keeps me from the joy of living in your presence.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 O fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 What man is there who desires life, and covets many days, that he may enjoy good?
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Christ is triumphant over the forces of demons, by Peter Chrysologus (400-450 AD)
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘Go!’ The foul-smelling animals are delivered up, not at the will of the demons but to show how savage the demons can become against humans. They ardently seek to destroy and dispossess all that is, acts, moves and lives. They seek the death of people. The ancient enmity of deep-rooted wrath and malice is in store for the human race. Demons do not give up easily unless they are forcibly overcome. They are doing the harm they are ordered to do. Therefore the foul-smelling animals are delivered up that it may be made clear to the demons that they have permission to enter the swine but not to enter humans. It is by our vices that we empower them to do harm. Similarly, by our power of faith we tread on the necks of demons. They become subject to us under Christ who is triumphant.” (excerpt from SERMONS 16.8)
[Peter Chrysologus (400-450 AD) was a renowned preacher and bishop of Ravena in the 5th century]