AMONG THE TOMBS
T. PIERCE BROWN
In Matthew 8:28-33 we have an interesting story of two who were possessed with demons. Modernists still deny that story, and some charismatics claim to be able to do today what Jesus did then. We are sure that both are wrong, but there are some lessons in the story for us today.
First, we need to know that demon possession is not the same as being spiritually under the control of Satan. Paul says in Romans6:16″Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” A person may be a servant of Satan, and under his control, but not be demon-possessed. If you are a servant of Satan it is because you presented yourself to be obedient to him. Those who were possessed by demons had not necessarily yielded to any temptation of Satan, but were involuntarily under the control of one or more demons. But there are still some comparisons and suggestive lessons to be gained from the story.
The fact that they dwelt among the tombs suggests the connection between evil and death. Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans6:23). He says in Ephesians 2:1 “And you did He make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins.” We were dead because we were separated from God by sin.
Dwelling among the tombs also suggests darkness and misery and loneliness. Jesus says in John3:19, “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.”
When we read “No man could pass that way,” we are reminded that sin is always the enemy of liberty. When politicians talks about freedom, they rarely understand the basis of freedom. Many talk about a democratic form of government for those in countries that are in oppression and ignorance. They think that a democracy makes everyone free. But a democratic form of government will not work when the men who form it do understand and try to practice such principles as the Golden Rule. That is the only real basis for freedom. But if it is just a democratic form of government, the majority may impose its will on the minority, and thus the minority may lose its freedom. Jesus included more truth than most realize when He said in John 8:36 “If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
Men were afraid to pass by the tombs because the presence of evil was there. Men are still afraid to go by the way of the grave because of sin. Paul said in 1 Corinthians15:55,56 “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin.”
It may be that the ones possessed by demons had power to resist at times, but no power to get rid of those demons by their own wisdom or strength. So it is with sin. You can not pull yourself out of the mud by your own bootstraps. When Peter said in Acts 2:40, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation,” he did not mean they could save themselves by themselves. They could only save themselves by accepting Jesus as Lord, and acting in accordance with His directives.
You may notice in the case of the man among the tombs, Jesus did not merely smooth his brow, hold his hand, and try to make him comfortable. The only cure is to cast out the demons. Martin Luther tried to reform the church as he knew it. But the problem is, one cannot re-form something that has not been formed. If a person is involved in sin, simply reforming his ways will not solve the problem. He has to become a new creature by being born from above. The demons had to be cast out, so the man could be under the control of another.
One of the most outstanding lessons in the story is that when Jesus said, “Go,” they went. The word of Christ can do what all the creeds, philosophies, guesses and efforts of man can not do. Sinners and saints alike need to appreciate Paul’s statement in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” It will remove all evil and its influences as nothing else can.
One of the saddest things about the story is the reaction of the people in the country. They thought more of their hogs than they did of either their neighbor or of Christ. This is, no doubt, a characteristic of our present materialistic generation.
If meditation on this message from the Master helps you to realize that there are still many today living, as it were, among the tombs, not fit to live and afraid to die, controlled by Satan and unfit for human companionship, it may be worth while. But unless it also helps you to see that only the powerful, unchanging word of Christ that was given into your hands to use for the glory of God and the good of man can cure the problem, it will be worth little. And if, when you realize those two facts, you do not determine to do what you can, where you are, with what you have to help poor helpless, hopeless mankind get rid of the bondage of sin, you may be worse off than you were before you read this far.