Two demoniacs at Gadarene


Mt 8:28-34.

     The encounter with the two demoniacs  was certainly a frightening encounter. Its vivid imagery would play well in any action adventure movie of our time.Of course how the story line would follow could have been any one of a number of variations. It could have been a start of a military battle, or it could have played out as an encounter between a traveler and  bandit. The story opens with the demoniacs charging after Jesus ; a very unwelcoming welcome and a bit like a junkyard dog defending his turf. With a little background information on the region you learn that this area was a Gentile region, an area few Jews would ever venture into.This  encounter is a colorful description of how welcome a first century Jew might have felt in that neighborhood; freighting unwelcome and uncomfortable. Frightened by the aggressiveness of its inhabitants and uncomfortable because the conflict between cultures. One cultural conflict is the presence of the tombs in the caves, the swine would be another; both would render a Jewish person ritually unclean.

   The demoniacs cry out to their foe  “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” They recognize their opponent, yet they are unsure what will happen. They do expect a battle.Here,the thematic elements also have some historic significance.In the scene described the demoniacs are the powerful aggressor. They are the ones in power and they are the ones that are fearful. It seems to be a thinly disguised description of the Romans and the Hellenists versus the Israelites. Romans and the Greeks were the power in the region. If they were Goliath, Jesus was David and most bible readers know how that story ended. David wins, Goliath dies and is beheaded. Israel lives in peace. Perhaps this is how the first century audience expected this story to end?That sort of ending was possible and it was what was expected of the Messiah. For many the Messiah was to ring in peace through such a military victory , Just as David did. The surprise of the story is that it did not end that way. There is no military battle, there are no Zealots in battle, there is not even a small entourage of bandit warriors. The story concludes with a healing, an exorcism. The aggressor lives though peacefully healed . Jesus recognized their demons and he recognized that these demons were equally a danger to both his fellow Jews and to the Gentiles they inhabited.He also realized that the demons resided in the people, and that the people were not the demons. Jesus’s approach was to heal them rather than to destroy. This story is the story of Jesus’s preaching and healing to these Gentiles, It also dramatically demonstrates that the Gentiles were part of Christ’s mission from its beginning. It is a story of Jesus as Messiah, though perhaps not the Messiah expected.

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