Now and Then, Real Rejection

The Seventh Son and The Scouring​ Scribes

Now the sons of Gad lived opposite them in the land of Bashan as far as Salecah.

Matthew 8:28-9:8

“And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, ‘What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’ Now there was at a distance from them a herd of many swine feeding. And the demons began to entreat Him, saying, ‘If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And He said to them, ‘Begone!’ And 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. And the herdsmen ran away, and went to the city, and reported everything, including the incident of the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they entreated Him to depart from their region. And getting into a boat, He crossed over, and came to His own city. And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.’ And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This fellow blasphemes.’ And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? ‘For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk’?  ‘But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic—’Rise, take up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose, and went home. But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”

More contextual proof that Jesus spoke to the scribe and disciple before he set sail for the land across the sea. Actually, it’s a large lake. And I am not sure they sailed, they may have rowed, considering the storm and then the zero wind. Nevertheless, these types of things are irrelevant compared to the substance of Christ. Hopefully this paragraph demonstrates this. It’s not a natural flow to what we have read in the context of Matthew–it is an aside, much like a parenthetical phrase, that if removed from the missive, it wouldn’t be missed and actually interrupts the flow of what Jesus is doing. I write it with a purpose, to show that many times we become mired in the miniscule and meaningless, neglecting the weightier things in the context, missing the author’s aspiration to his audience.

Such as; “And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road.” The other side indicates the eastern side of Galilee and the Jordan River. The immediate context confirms by stating, the land of the Gadarenes. The original audience was expected to know their history but we must take our Vitamin E, expository exegesis of examples and search the Scripture for the land of the Gadarenes.

“Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, [east of the Jordan] that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, [they had yet to see the promised land] the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, ‘Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon, the land which the LORD conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock; and your servants have livestock.’ And they said, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan.’”

This made Moses angry and he responded, “Shall your brothers go to war while you yourselves sit here? Now why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the LORD has given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the sons of Israel so that they did not go into the land which the LORD had given them.”

But the Gadarenes and Ruebenites responded, “We will build here sheepfolds for our livestock and cities for our little ones; but we ourselves will be armed ready to go before the sons of Israel, until we have brought them to their place, while our little ones live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land.” Moses relented and agreed to their wishes if they indeed would fight across the Jordan for their brethren. And they did, and then returned to the land across the Jordan. But then they set up an altar, which was for the Lord, however God was to choose the place of his altar. (See Genesis 35, 42:19, Numbers 32, Deuteronomy 32,  Joshua 12,13+22)

Though the Gadarenes seem to have followed God, they didn’t fully follow his commandments. They didn’t want to go to the promised land, set up an altar on their own accord and settled in a land of which the Lord had not promised. There’s a very good lesson here, they wanted to worship God in their own way. The tribe of Gad, like the other 9 northern tribes, all but disappeared during the deportation and destruction of Israel. We can only assume like in Samaria, only a shred of the culture remained. And Jesus went to this place and cast out demons.

“Two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, ‘What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?'”

Notice the description of the two demon possessed men.

  • They were exceedingly violent
  • They blocked the way
  • They understood that Jesus was the son of God

Let’s take a little more Vitamin E, and read what Jacob said about Gad, the man, when he blessed his children, “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels” And later the tribe of Gad, along with the tribe of Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh are described in 1 Chronicles 5:18; “they acted treacherously against the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and to the river of Gozan, to this day.”

Because of their idolatry, the eastern tribes, including Gad, were the first to be conquered and sent into exile. In the context​ of 1 Chronnicles 5, we also read that, “the sons of Reuben and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, consisting of valiant men, men who bore shield and sword and shot with bow, and were skillful in battle, were 44,760, who went to war.” They were warriors from the beginning. We see this in Numbers​, Joshua, and 1 Chronnicles. Our Old Testament tutor paints the picture of a group of people who at times fight for their brethren and Lord yet consistently went their own way. And ultimately they rejected the Lord’s ways to follow after their own way. First, without seeing the promised land that the Lord would give them, they decided on land east of the Jordan. Then they built an altar where God had not commanded, and ultimately, they turned to idolatry and relied on their skills as warriors to fight their enemies and eventually lost and went into almost utter oblivion. Save for a few inter mixed people, similar to the Samaritans.

Jesus visits the land in Matthew 8 and encounters demon possessed men who are blocking the way, violent, yet knew who the Lord was. Without leaping to any conclusions, does this remind you of anyone? Keep considering the CAGED method where, context is King, author’s aspiration to his audience is apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth confirms or cancels culturally held traditions.

We wonder when walking through the context of Matthew 8, how and why did these demon possessed men, understand that Jesus was the son of God? Why were they so violent that people couldn’t pass by on the road? And what were they doing in the tombs of this land? I know what you are thinking; perhaps, but let’s keep considering our Old Testament tutor and the current content. Also, as we walk, try to place yourself in the shoes of the first century audience, understanding their culture and traditions. The history we have seen, is the history of their ancestors.

Considering the culture of the time, and Matthew’s aspirations to the audience, we remember that swine are filthy, forbidden animals. They are unclean and detestable to Matthew’s original audience. Why would the demons in the possessed men ask to be sent into swine rather than something good and clean? Because they were evil and unclean and settled on something evil and unclean? Perhaps, many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers believe this, but I am not sure. Listened to the words of the demons again, “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” What do they mean by torment, and what time? Before Jesus gives them an answer​, they entreat him to send them into the swine. It’s very interesting–apparently the demos also use rhetoric.

“What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’ Now there was at a distance from them a herd of many swine feeding. And the demons began to entreat Him, saying, ‘If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And He said to them, ‘Begone!’ And 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.” With one word, Jesus acquiesced to their request and the herd ran into the waters and drowned. Could this be a case of evil swallowing up evil, demons entering swine and drowning in the deep? Considering the details contained in the context, I believe it is distinctively deeper than that.

“And the herdsmen ran away, and went to the city, and reported everything, including the incident of the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus;” good! The entire city came out to meet the Lord, that’s excellent.  Except that it isn’t! Notice: “and when they saw Him, they entreated Him to depart from their region.” Please leave, we beg you to leave. Do you see it? The Lord was in their midst, and got rid of the dirty demons doing dastardly deeds and the unclean, stinky swine in one felled swoop, and they begged him to leave. History sure does repeat itself.

“And getting into a boat, He crossed over, and came to His own city. And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.'” My guess is they didn’t bring on a bed, the paralytic, so that his sins would be forgiven and spiritually healed, but that he would be physically healed. Jesus knew this but also knew the greater need for forgiveness and the hearts of those in attendance. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing.

“And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This fellow blasphemes.’ And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? ‘For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk’?  ‘But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic—’Rise, take up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose, and went home.” Jesus set up a confrontation. He forgives the paralytic of his sins and it boils the blood–blasphemy, some of the scribes thought to themselves! Jesus, knowing what he was doing and their thoughts, calls them out as evil thinkers. Then using rhetoric and demonstration, he asks them which is easier to say, you’re forgiven or you’re healed? And he speaks and the man is healed. “Rise, take up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose, and went home.” The paralytic does exactly as Jesus told him, don’t miss that. So far in this section, the only beings that do what they are told are demons, swine and a paralyzed person. Even more astonishing is that in the entirety of these two scenes, where we see a whole city entreating Jesus, scribes scoffing to themselves, and men of faith carrying a paralyzed person to the prince of peace, only the paralyzed person has his sins forgiven. Jesus cast out the creatures, clearing the way for the city, but they​ begged him to leave. The paralyzed person, carried on his cot, the helpless one, was forgiven and healed. The scribes search the Scripture for the Messiah but when he’s in their midst, the scribes scoff to their selves. This is literature–this is irony. Yet it is also reality and all too real. Life imitates art and the people in the land of Gad imitate the people in the land of Gad. They were the first to not follow the Lord at first and the first not to follow him in Matthew’s methodology of the Messiah’s ministry. This time, it was an outright rejection.

But after seeing these things, we take heart based on the mood of the multitude. There’s always a but. “But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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