Theme: An Analysis of the Two Demoniacs
This week’s lessons show both the positive and negative changes that an encounter with Jesus can produce.
Scripture: Matthew 8:28-34
Now, Acts 8 tells us of the healing of these two demon possessed men. It took place in the region of the Gadarenes. There’s some manuscript peculiarities where that’s concerned due to the fact that nobody is quite certain where this area was. One thing that is certain is that it was a Gentile area, and it was probably on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had crossed over there, and as he did, out of the tombs came these two men who were demon possessed. We have to start with an analysis of them and we have to ask what they were like before this encounter with Jesus.
Well, there are a number of things we can say about them. First of all is the obvious thing that they were demon possessed. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about that today because we are so far from thinking of things spiritual that to think of somebody being demon possessed almost sounds like a piece of mythology, a story in ancient lore believed by people who we would conclude hardly knew better. 
But in our scientific age we hardly believe these things anymore. What we actually prove by that is how isolated we are in living in the material age of the West. Anybody who would travel in other portions of the world different from our own would have a far different view of the supernatural and the demonic. You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in demons. You travel in areas of the world where there are pagan religions, and you find that people most certainly believe in the supernatural, including demons. Missionaries in particular are aware of this and often write back to those who are praying for them to ask them to pray that the power of God might be exercised against these spiritual forces, because they are very aware when they’re in these remote areas of the world that what they’re up against is not, as we would say in our time, simply the materialism, or the laziness, or the secularism, or the pluralism of a culture, but spiritual forces that struggle violently at times against the intrusion of the light of Jesus Christ into their regions.
Now it’s changing somewhat, and the reason it’s changing, of course, is that America is becoming so pagan. With our paganism and our falling away from religion there comes the demonic, and we have certain evidences of that in our culture. I’m told, though I have no personal experience of it, that even in a great city like Philadelphia that we think of as very modern and very western, there are cults that are concerned with the worship of evil spirits or the devil himself. And there are people in certain areas of the city that practice what we would call witchcraft or magic, but which from their perspective is a way of healing or divining not by human means but by the supernatural.
In the ancient world, they were aware of the demonic. It’s very interesting when you study these stories to find that there is a great distinction made between Christ’s healing of those who were merely sick, even though those sicknesses that he healed were significant and very important things, and stories in which he cast our demons. We would tend, perhaps, in our time to mingle the two, but the Bible doesn’t do that. It recognizes that there are physical maladies and then there are spiritual maladies as well. In this case these men were demon possessed. Theirs was a spiritual affliction, an evil force. And as we read the story, particularly as it is told in Mark’s and Luke’s Gospel, we find that it’s evil forces that were harming these men. Indeed, it is a legion of them, because that is the name that is given to this demon. 
Then secondly, as a result of their demon possession, we could say that they were cut off from other people. This was physically true, but of course it was also psychologically true. Because of their demon possession they had been driven from or had taken themselves away from the city and their families in which they live. We learn in the other stories, as they’re told in the other Gospels, that one of these men at least had a family that was back there, because Jesus told him to go home. So here was a separation from other people as a result of the affliction.
The third thing we find is that these men were violent. They were so violent people were afraid to go near them. That’s one reason why they were out of the city. We’re told that at times people had tried to bind them because they were in danger of harming other human beings, but in the strength of the evil spirits these men were so empowered that they simply broke the bonds. 
And then the final thing, perhaps a symbolic thing but I think most significant, they were dwelling among the dead. Which is to say they were living here in the graveyard among the tombs.
Study Questions:

From the study, how are the two men described?  Can you observe anything else about them from the passage?
In what ways can you observe your own country, or even your own neighborhood, growing either more material and secular or, conversely, more pagan in its views of spirituality?

Reflection: Even if it is not due to demonic possession, how does sin cause people to behave in ways that mirror the state and behavior of these two men?

Study Questions
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