Lesson 4: Healer
Devotion: The Roman centurion in yesterday’s reading responds faithfully to Jesus’ ministry, but not every Gentile does. Read Matthew 8:28-9:1. While many people ask Jesus to stay when they witness his power, the people of Gadara beg him to leave. These Gentiles are angry his healing of the demon-possessed men cost them a significant amount of money in the loss of the community’s pig herd. Sadly, this too is a sign of the reign of God. Simon prophecies that Jesus is “destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed” (Lk 2:34). Jesus says his ministry will divide even families (Mt 10:34-39). His encounter with the rich, young man reaffirms that some people will not follow Jesus if it costs them too much financially (Mt 19:16-26). Since we spend money on what we value, economics and faith are forever bound together. Does following Jesus cost you financially? How much would we sacrifice to help people in a desperate situation find healing, salvation, etc.? Would you sacrifice half your wealth? Will we sacrifice more if those who are struggling are members of our family? When have you seen money become a hindrance to faith?
Personal Worship Option: Both suffering and healing come in many forms. Pray for those unable to become pregnant, whose children have gone astray, who have lost people to death, are orphans, are going through divorce, are addicted, are facing death, whose loved ones face death, are unemployed, who have no hope, and those contemplating suicide.
Dig A Little Deeper:
Compare this account with Mark 5:1-20. Some believe Matthew prefers to report stories as occurring to two persons (9:27, 20:29, 21:28) because Jewish audiences feel two witnesses to an event have more power than one.
8:28 Gadara is a city to the east of the Jordan River, southeast from the Sea of Galilee. The presence of a pig herd demonstrates this is a Gentile territory.
8:29 The demons fear the power of Jesus. Perhaps these spiritual beings, unclean as they are, recognize the authority of Jesus because they see the creation through a spiritual lens (17:1-8). Ultimately the issue is not whether spiritual forces have power or impact on humanity, but how we acknowledge and submit to the one ultimate power, God. Would you feel comfortable participating in the blessing of a home? In an exorcism? How are those two services different?
“Before the appointed time” refers to the moment in the future when God stops time, judges all creation, and destroys every evil power (Dan 7:13-14; 1 Cor 15:24-25).
8:31 The demons seek permission to possess pigs since apparently, demons must have some physical body in order to function in the material world (12:43-45). In Jewish thinking, pigs are the most unclean of animals. However, the pigs rushing over the bank to their death is a sign even the pigs reject such an evil presence. Again, like all Jesus’ healings, this is a sign of the reign of God. The demonic is cast forth and destroyed in the presence of God. What needs to be cast out of your spiritual life?
8:34 Some suggest the town’s request is based on the fear that Jesus is a dangerous demon of some high rank. This same charge is made against him by the religious leaders (12:24-29).