Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some Observations Concerning Matthew 8:28-34

Everything in Matt. 8:28-34 seems to anticipate what will soon take place in Matt. 12, Israel’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah.

Up until this point in Matthew, there has been no resistance to Jesus and his ministry. One possible hint of resistance is found earlier in Matt. 8 when one of the disciples seems to ask Jesus for “a little time” and speaks of postponing his commitment to Jesus until after his father has died (8:21). But the hostility follows.  

1.   In 8:34, the Gadarenes (or, Gergesenes, Gerasenes, etc. depending on what you do with the textual variant) “implored him to leave their region.” This stands in stark contrast to the crowds that have been following Jesus around, the presence of the disciples, etc.
2.   In 9:3, the scribes said “this man blasphemes.” Nevertheless, the crowds continued to be awestruck and glorified God” (9:8). There is an interesting use of τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.
3.   In 9:34, the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out demons by the ruler of demons.”
4.   In 11:20f., while the Pharisees and scribes had previously been mentioned for their resistance, Jesus “began to denounce the cities…because they did not repent.”
5.   In 12:24, the Pharisees again attributed his power to the ruler of demons saying, “This man casts out demons by Beezelbul.”

It is following the account in Matthew 12:24 that Jesus speaks of the unpardonable sin and switches his ministry plan (found in Matt. 4:23 which he later shared with the disciples as he sent them out in Matt. 10:1, 11:1). Beginning in Matt. 13, Jesus begins to speak in parables, “on that day” (Matt. 13:1), the same day that he was rejected. The disciples even asked him, “Why?” in 13:10. His answer is a very interesting location for the Isaiah 6 quotation.

Anyways, up to this point in Matthew, everyone is coming to Jesus. Matt. 8:1-27 show that one is even discussing following Jesus, and one of the disciples is even discussing postponing his commitment. But this section in Matthew shows the first account of those who “reject” Jesus.

It is interesting that the first “rejection narrative” is in Gentile territory with Gentiles. The nature and date of Matthew’s gospel explains the differences in the accounts between it and Mark (Mark’s gospel has some additional information).

Matthew 8:29 has the second reference to Jesus as the “Son of God.” The first is found in Matt. 4:3, 6 coming from Satan.  The only additional two addresses to Jesus as the “Son of God” come from Peter in Matt. 16 and from the centurion in Matt. 27.

The section is actually broken up into six parts:

I.      Matthew’s Narrative Information (8:28)
II.     The Demons’ Questions (8:29)
III.    Matthew’s Narrative Information (8:30)
IV.    The Demons’ Entreaty (8:31)
V.     Jesus’ Response (8:32a)
VI.    Matthew’s Narrative Information (8:32b)

Just a few additional observations before I go. First, isn’t it interesting that Jesus even grants the request of the demons. I had an interesting time this week reading Matthew and seeing all the questions and requests that people had for Jesus. Jesus often, though certainly not always, gave persons what they wanted (Please do not take that out of context, especially for some Prosperity Gospel message). In this case, he even gave some demons what they wanted. I was interested to see four things that Jesus did not grant or do that people asked of him: (1) When the Jews asked him for a sign (2x), he did not give them one but said that the only one they would receive was the sign of Jonah, (2) when Peter asked to build three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, (3) when the mother of James and John asked for Jesus to grant that her two sons could sit on his right and his left in his kingdom, and (4) when they said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross,” he did not come down.

Second, Jesus only utters one word in this entire section (ὑπάγετε). One word, and the demons were gone.

Third, just as Jesus gave the demons what they desired (to be sent into the swine), Jesus also gave the Gentiles in the region of the Gaderenes what they desired, namely that he would depart from their region. Jesus had no longer been on the shore of Galilee in their region, perhaps still able to see the water, before he was implored to leave.

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