DUNCAN/Jesus casts out demons
Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 8:28-34. The whole of chapter 8 shows us the power of Christ. The first seventeen verses showing His power over bodily diseases; then, especially verses 23-27, showing His power even over the forces of nature. And now, in verses 28 to the end, showing the Lord’s sovereign power even over the forces of evil. And so the sovereignty of Christ is set forth in Matthew chapter 8. We will see three things from this passage. First, Jesus Christ is the very Son of God. Second, Jesus Christ, the Son of God is sovereign even over demons. And third, some people so prefer earthly and material blessings that they are willing and desirous to part with Christ.
I. Jesus Christ Is the Very Son of God.
This is a strange passage. It is the first passage in the Gospel of Matthew where the Lord Jesus Christ’s encounter with the demon-possessed is described. It had been mentioned earlier in this chapter that the Lord Jesus Christ had healed those who were demon-possessed. Now, we see an incident depicted for us. And there are many great spiritual truths for us in this feast of the word, but I would like to point your attention to three of them. The first of them you will see in verses 28 and 29 where we learn, in fact, that Jesus Christ is the very Son of God. In Matthew 8:28-29, Matthew reminds us that even the demons acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And so, Matthew brings home to us, with particular force, the truth that Jesus Christ is the very Son of God.
There are many truths that we can learn from this exchange. For one, this is an important testimony to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the demons acknowledge him to be the very Son of God. But it’s also a solemn reminder that it is possible to acknowledge Christ with your lips and not to acknowledge him with your heart. It is possible to profess Christ without possessing Him in your heart. It is possible to claim to be a follower of Christ and yet not be a follower of Christ indeed. We do well to reflect upon that truth when we realize who Jesus is. He is the very Son of God.
II. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Is Sovereign Even Over Demons!
But there’s a second thing we learn in this passage. That is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is sovereign even over demons. The Lord Jesus Christ is sovereign even over the forces of evil. Even in His state of humiliation. Even in His state when He walks through this world as our Prophet, Priest, and King bearing our infirmities and sorrows and suffering on our behalf, He is sovereign over the forces of evil. The Lord Jesus has wandered into a region where there are many Gentiles and we are told explicitly in verse 30 that there were also pig herds in that area. These pigs were unclean animals for Jews. One was not allowed to touch that which was unclean, and one was certainly not allowed to taste or eat that which was unclean. And in this region He confronts these two demoniacs. Before the Lord Jesus even begins to speak, the demons begin to speak to Him, asking Him to cut a deal, to mitigate His plans for them. The Lord Jesus’ power and authority, hence, is seen even in the requests of the demons. Even the demons know they must request of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, the Lord Jesus Christ’s sovereignty is stressed in four ways in this incident. First of all, notice in verse 29 that the demons acknowledge Christ as the Son of God, and they know that He has the power of final judgment or torment. Secondly, notice that in the first half of verse 31, it is clear that the demons acknowledge that Christ has the power to cast them out of these two poor men so afflicted. Thirdly, notice that the demons request permission to possess a nearby herd of swine. And notice, fourthly, that the demons obey Jesus. Matthew is showing the shear sovereignty of your Lord. “One little word shall fell them,” as Luther reminds us. The Lord Jesus Christ is sovereign over the forces of evil.
III. Some People So Prefer Earthly and Material Blessings That They Are Willing and Desirous to Part With Christ.
There’s one last thing that I would point you to in this passage, and you see it in verses 33 and 34. In this passage, we learn that some people so prefer earthly satisfaction, earthly fulfillment, earthly success, earthly and material blessings, that they are willing to forego Christ. We can put it even stronger. There are some who so prefer earthly fulfillment and satisfaction and blessings that they are willing to part with Christ. Verse 33 says, “The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city, and reported everything, including what happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.” Notice that the herdsmen immediately go back to report this event. What is the focus of their report? Everything that happened, and then there’s sort of this little clause tacked on to the end, ‘Oh, including what happened to the demoniacs.’ You see, these herdsmen first want to report about the damage done to business. Secondly, they want to make sure that nobody blames them for those pigs going off the cliff. And then there’s this, ‘Oh, by the way, and there were two men who were healed of demon possession.’ They were more concerned about those pigs than they were about people. It is clear from this brief description that these folks care more about their goods and their livelihood than they do for their souls and for the souls of others.
And therein, my friends, is a warning for us, because there are many in our own time who allow their desires to come between themselves and Christ. And they would rather have their fulfillment now than walk with Him in this life. You see, the devil’s weapon is the world. The way he enslaves us is that he sets our hearts and our desires on the temporal, till we love it so much that there is no room for the eternal, and that which is central is pushed to the peripheral. God no longer is at the center of our experience; He’s pushed way to the outside. He may be icing on the cake. He may be ignored entirely but He’s not the center of our experience. And when that happens, our hearts are empty. Will we love the sovereign Christ more than anything in this world, or will we die with our trinkets?
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.