And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”
When Jesus went to the country of the Gergesenes, He encountered two men who were demon-possessed (Matthew 8:28-34). This is quite interesting because so many in our day and age try to ignore the existence of demons and the devil all together. But not Jesus. He confronted them head on in His ministry, and in doing so, showed us that He is not only the King of kings, but the King over all principalities, powers, and the rulers of darkness of this age.
If we could truly see the world with the eyes of Christ we would have no doubt that demon-possession does indeed exist. Not that I think we should go overboard and start hunting for demons, looking for demons in every corner, doorknob or crevice of our lives. However we should not ignore the reality that much of the problems we face in the world with people are related to demonic influence and possession. This is one reason why the evil seem to prosper as they do. It is why the wicked are exalted to such heights with their power, fame and influence. But none of the wickedness in this world is able to take place without the permission of our Father in heaven and His Royal Son. In the passage before us, we see Christ’s dominance of this realm, as well as everything else.
In this encounter, what the demons say is extremely instructive. We find that the demons have a better grip on who Jesus is than the people in the village or the people of our day. Listen to their words: “What have we do to with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”
This one sentence is packed with truth. Notice that the demons do not debate the question concerning Jesus. They know who He is and say it so. As for the question about Him being the Son of God, that shows us their evil nature and attitude toward Christ, more than anything else. The question is filled with sarcasm. They understood that He had the power to torment them. They knew He was going to bring judgment upon them at the appointed time. It would do the world well to learn from these demons. Jesus will come to judge all mankind at the appointed time and He will not be judging us based upon a curve. Either we take the information we have about Him, and trust in Him for our salvation with saving faith, or we will join the demons in that great judgment that leads to torment.
Please notice, there is no hope for fallen demons. By fallen demons, I mean those who in eternity past decided to cast their lot with Satan instead of God. According to the book of Revelation, about a third of all the angels did just that and Christ’s encounter with them is the end result of their fall. Fallen angels cannot be redeemed for there is no atonement for them. This is why Jesus is fully human, so that He represents us on the cross. He was fully God so that His nature could bear up under the wrath poured out by the Father. The point is that His sacrifice was for mankind only, and fallen angels have no hope of repentance or being redeemed. Their future is set and it is bleak. They may torment, possess, attack, divide, and plot against the people of God, but their end is certain and their judgment will be just. In fact, Jesus tells us that the everlasting fire they are destined for was prepared for them and their leader, the devil (Matthew 25:41). These demons that possess these two men know these fact. They know that He is the Son of God. They know that He will judge them. They know that they are reserved for everlasting judgment, yet in all this knowledge, they have no hope.
This is a reminder to us that we may know a lot about Jesus. We may know the stories of the Bible. We may know the facts of who He was/is. We may even acknowledge that He is the way to salvation, is the only true hope for mankind, is the head of the church, truly was raised from the dead and coming again. But apart from justifying faith(see below), we still have no hope for salvation. I’m not saying that knowledge is useless. It is a benefit and a blessing. But knowledge of Christ without saving faith will not lead to eternal salvation. The demons know who Christ is, and they have no hope.
“If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.”
The demons know their future is bleak. In a complete moment of foolishness, they request to be permitted to go into a herd of swine. In this, we see that the demons recognized Christ’s supremacy over them. Many of the people we know, including ourselves, want to fall into the false belief that we are autonomous in our lives. We think we have no ruler, no king, no one in authority to answer to. Our entire culture is bent on teaching us this lie. In this, the demons were much smarter than we are. They know that Christ has supremacy over them. They know they will have to answer to Him some day. They know that they cannot do any one thing without the permission of our Father in heaven. This is why they make the request. They know He is going to cast them out, that He has the power to do so, but foolishly choose swine as their next victims.
The moment Jesus does grant them their request and casts them out of the two men, the herd of swine rush violently into the Sea of Galilee and perish. We know that the Jews were not supposed to have pigs in their possession and it has been suggested that this is why He used the pigs. But I also think we need to realize that the pigs were just pigs. They are animals. Animal lovers have a trouble understanding that pigs are not people too. The two men are of far more value than the pigs. Jesus told us this when He said, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Animals, while important and to be cared for, are just animals. They are to be used for man’s benefit and not idolized, glorified, or worshipped as they are in our day.
Many will quietly agree with this because the herd was made up of pigs. But what if they had been puppies, or kittens? It is easy to dismiss the pig because we know that at that time, pigs were considered unclean. But what if Christ chose to use puppies to destroy the demons? He has every right to do so, He is our Creator. By asking this question, it shows us our unnatural fondness of animals over and against the expense of humans. Jesus was far more concerned with the men who were demon possessed than He was with the pigs, or the puppies had He chosen to use them for such a purpose. This is because mankind was created in the image of God. This separation between us and the animal kingdom if vital and important. We have been given immortal souls at our creation, souls that will either spend eternity in hell or heaven, given our faith or lack of it, in Christ. Animals do not have immortal souls. They are not made in His image. We are.
I confess, this is hard news for many. My son sat on the couch this past Saturday and asked me if I remembered Fergie, a black lab we had back in Roswell. I told him that I did and he immediately told me that Fergie was now in doggie heaven. The theologian in me immediately started have a debate with the father in me. The father won out and I simply smiled. Will I instruct him on these truths at some point? Absolutely. But for now, he can live with the comfort of doggy heaven.
Where the church fails is that far too many adult believers still live with the false comfort of doggy heaven. They jump through all kinds of rationalistic contortions to support the case for doggy heaven. Yet, there is no basis in Scripture for this view. The sad side effect to this is that by exalting animals with the idea of immortal souls, we devalue humans made in God’s image. This is why our culture will throw you into jail for breaking turtle eggs, but exalt you for killing babies in the womb. We fail to place animals in their proper place in creation, and fail to see the infinite value that we have in simply being human.
Let us learn from Christ who had a proper view on everything. He died for the sins of His people, not pigs, not puppies, and certainly not kittens.
And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.
Finally, we come to the townsfolk of the village where the pigs were kept and the demons were tolerated. Jesus, after dispatching both the pigs and the demons, is told by the leaders of the town that they wish He would leave. Here we see the condition of the lost. Far too many in our day think that the lost want Jesus. The church calls these people seekers, even though the Scripture rebukes such a notion (Romans 3:11), and here we see it before us. The people heard what Jesus did, and when they saw Him, begged Him to leave. That is the norm, not the exception. This shows us the fallen nature of mankind.
Notice, they did not question Jesus. They did not ask who He was. They just wanted Him gone. Again, this is what is normal among non-believers. They may say they think of Jesus as a great teacher, or a wise man, or a revolutionary, but in the end, they don’t want the Jesus who is. This is because their nature, and ours before conversion, is one that is at war with the things of God. In our lost condition, we did not want Jesus, His Law, His Salvation, His sufferings, His authority in our lives…, we wanted nothing to do with Him. We might have nodded our heads as some street evangelist shared with us the good news, but we couldn’t wait for a pregnant pause in order to flee the fanatic.
But the rejection of Christ is more than this. The non-believer not only does not want Jesus, he hates Jesus and all His followers. We are a repugnant odor to the non-believer because the Spirit dwelling in us convicts them of their sinfulness. Paul says this is because we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). This is why the lost love it so when they see a believer trapped in his own sin. They hate us, just as they hated Christ (John 15:), and want our destruction just as much as the demons want our destruction. They can do no other since they are under the power of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Let this be a reminder to those of us who love Christ and His words. We do so only by God’s grace in our lives. We did not come to know Him because we are smarter, wiser, more spiritually savvy than the lost. We came to know by His grace and grace alone. God, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to show the townsfolk the grace that He showed us. We must trust God with His decisions and rejoice that we are truly part of His people. But let us not fall into the trap of many, thinking that Jesus came to save all, and was spoiled in His plans because the lost are just too stubborn to be saved. That is a foolish thought altogether. Jesus did not save those in that town because the Father did not elect them for salvation. He did not choose them, and they were not drawn to Christ. The same is true in our day. Many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 20:16).
Q. 72. What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.