Sun, Aug 19, 2001
Matthew 8:28-34 by Joe Guglielmo
Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
Series: Topical Studies
MATTHEW 8:28:34

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 8 this morning as we will see Jesus heal or deliver these two demon-possessed men who were living in the area of the Gadarenes, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. And out of this awesome miracle we will look at the response of this town’s people to what Jesus did, for in it, we will see the response of man today, even at times those who are Christians. You see, we are going to find out that we all Gotta Serve Somebody!

But, before we get into our text this morning, listen to this true story of Josef Stalin that reflects the heart of rebellion and hard-heartedness towards God. Ravi Zacharias tells us of:

A story I heard personally from Malcolm Muggeridge (that stirred me then and still does even yet) was his account of a conversation he had with Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin. She spent some time with Muggeridge in his home in England while they were working together on their BBC production on the life of her father. According to Svetlana, as Stalin lay dying, plagued with terrifying hallucinations, he suddenly sat halfway up in bed, clenched his fist toward the heavens once more, fell back upon his pillow, and was dead.

The incredible irony of his whole life is that at one time Josef Stalin had been a seminary student, preparing for the ministry. Coming of Nietzschean age, he made a decisive break from his belief in God. This dramatic and complete reversal of conviction that resulted in his hatred for all religion is why Lenin had earlier chosen Stalin and positioned him in authority - a choice Lenin too late regretted. (The name Stalin, which means "steel," was not his real name, but was given to him by his contemporaries who fell under the steel-like determination of his will) And as Stalin lay dying, his one last gesture was a clenched fist toward God, his heart as cold and hard as steel.

- Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, p. 26

That is what we will see emerge from out text this morning. Thus, let’s begin reading in verse 28 of Matthew chapter 8, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 8:28-32

Jesus is on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee in the area of the Gadarenes. It is the area that the tribe of Gad settled in, outside of the promise land. And today this area is called Kursi. During the time of Jesus, this area was mostly populated by Gentiles, but there were Jews also living there, who, from our text, seem to be raising pigs for the Gentiles to eat. A Good business, not much competition, even though it was an illegal operation, for pigs were not kosher to the Jews, it was against what God said in Leviticus11:7. But that did not seem to bother them, they were making money without much interference.

As soon as they got off the boat, Matthew tells us that two demon-possessed men came at them, probably to scare them, terrorize them. You see, these men lived in the tombs, where dead people were buried, because they were dead in their condition, the living dead you might say. They were violent, chains couldn’t hold them, and people avoided the area, maybe having signs warning the people of the danger!

Do you see how Satan and his demon’s want to destroy lives! Their families, their friends, their homes, all gone, and now they are living in isolation, being tormented by these demons. You see, a relationship outside of God brings about death, but a relationship with God brings about life. Jesus makes this very point in John 10:10 when He says, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

And, all the world could do is look on, the world could not help these men, all they could do is stay clear of them, avoid them and warn others to stay clear of the area. And here comes Jesus to set them free! And God wants to do no less for those who are in bondage to sin today. If they would only come to Him. You see, I do not want to go before the Father and hear Him say to me, "You are the weakest link! Goodbye!" And if a person doesn’t know Christ, that is what He will hear, not in those exact words, but you get the idea!

Now, as those demon possessed men approach Jesus, the demons recognize Him as God, and they are crying out not to be tormented before the time of judgment, which they know is coming. Interesting isn’t it! Look at the hell they have put these men through for years, and they are crying out to God not to torment them! You see, they don’t care about life, but only for themselves, and that is true of any person who is not walking with the Lord.

For whatever reason, these demons ask to be cast into this heard of swine, they wanted to be embodied. And Jesus allows it to be so, and these pigs, 2,000 of them, run off a slope into the Sea of Galilee, and drown. A couple of things before we move on. First of all, it would seem that at least 2,000 demons had possessed these men, maybe more. In fact, these demon’s call themselves "Legion" which a Roman legion was 6,000 men, indicating there may have been many more demons in these men!

Also, why in the world would these demons destroy, kill 2,000 pigs? Please understand that what they did to those pigs, they want to do to you! A pig to them is no different than a man in their mind and they will destroy whatever they can.

Now 2,000 pigs may not seem like such a big deal to us, but it was a big deal to these people because it represented a lot of money to whoever cared for them. It could take care of a family of 4 for 15 years! So this was a big deal as we will see in a few minutes.

If you go to Israel today, to the area called Kursi, you will find a steep slope that goes down to the Sea of Galilee where this event probably took place. It is the only place on the Sea of Galilee that slopes down like that. And for those of you who like facts, it is the first reported case that we have on record of DEVILED HAM! Sorry about that!

Jesus has delivered these men from this demon-possession that had destroyed their lives for so long. They have been set free! Now you would think that the people of the area, their family and friends would be rejoicing at this point. Family and friends celebrating this deliverance, and yet, as we are going to see, that is not how they felt, how they reacted, not at all!

MATTHEW 8:33-34

Those who were watching over these pigs, caring for them, run home and tell their boss what took place, and also alerted the town of what just happened. They did not want to get into trouble for this. Now some try to say these were Gentiles who were running this business, but I don’t think so. If they were Gentiles, they would have asked Jesus to reimburse them for their loss of 2,000 pigs that were now floating in the Sea of Galilee, belly up. And that didn’t happen. But, if they were Jews, which I believe they were, there was not much they could say, because this was a illegal operation for them to be running. So they kept silent about any kind of reimbursement. And if you really think about it, a drug dealer who gets ripped off is not going to go and tell the police! Thus, these Jews were not going to say anything about these pigs they lost. But what did they do, along with the whole town? They asked Jesus to get out of town, to leave them alone, to go away. That is an interesting response in light of what Jesus just did, freeing these two demon-possessed men! They were not moved by what Jesus had just done.

What was their problem? They were more concerned about their profits than people. They were more concerned about their possessions than these men who were demon-possessed. They were more concerned about their commerce than a commitment to God. And so they ask Jesus to leave them alone, and He does. Jesus departs to the other side of the Sea of Galilee because He won’t stay where He is not welcomed, where He is not wanted!

The result of their actions is seen in what this area is like today, desolate, filled with ruins, the remains of a past life. You see, outside of Christ our lives are desolate, they are in ruins, but Jesus came to set us free, to give us abundant life, to make our lives fruitful, but we must come to Him and ask Him to be Lord and Savior, to forgive us of our sins first. You see, Jesus won’t force you to come to Him, to follow Him, but He also won’t stay where He is not welcomed. You see, He wants you to call upon Him because He has already called upon you. All He is doing is waiting for you to open the door of your heart and let Him in, as Revelation 3:20 says,"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

Now please understand that this is not only speaking to the unsaved but also the saved. You see, we can let all kinds of busyness get in our way, keep us from Jesus. What things are you involved in that are hindering your relationship with Jesus?

Is it work, that money is the priority in your life, and if it gets in the way of going to church, going to worship God, work wins out and God will understand that? Now I do know that some people have to work on Sunday’s, I do. Every other weekend I work the second shift. But if you are working extra to get more possessions instead of coming to worship God, then your priorities are wrong. You see, Paul said in I Timothy 6:9-10, "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Be careful where your love is at.

What should we do? Paul goes on to say, "But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." I Timothy 6:11-12. Be in the Word, be in fellowship, worship the Lord and don’t place God behind money or work! You see, in the end you will suffer the loss!

What about activities, do they keep you from worshiping the Lord? Is it a late concert that causes you to sleep in and miss church? Is it having friends over that causes you to stay up too late? Are you saying to yourself, "I can worship God on the golf course just as well as in church?" Well, that may be, and yet, Paul tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

We are to come together as a corporate body of believers to worship God. You see, we need to be careful because we can come up with good excuses to cover our laziness. This is not to lay some big guilt trip on you, but if you feel a little uneasy, maybe the Lord is speaking to you this morning on this matter. You see, just as your spouse wants to spend time with you, so does the Lord!

I guess the question is "Who are you going to serve?" If it is not the Lord, the possessions, things will be more important to you than people. You will be self-consumed, self-absorbed, self-will will rule in your life and you will be out to satisfy self, the only thing that is really important in your life. Thus, if anything gets in your way, you will ask them to move on, get out of the way, and it may even be the Lord you ask to step aside, not with words, but with your actions!

At the end of his life, Joshua was trying to admonish the people to follow the Lord. Joshua lived 110 years and now he is trying to encourage the people to follow his example, for he says "If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good." Joshua 24:20. Thus, he tells the people "...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15. And the people responded by saying "...‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods...No, but we will serve the LORD!’" Joshua 24:16, 20.

And you may be thinking, great, they will also serve the Lord as Joshua did, they will follow his example. But, listen to what is said in Judges 2:6-13, "And when Joshua had dismissed the people, the children of Israel went each to his own inheritance to possess the land. So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel. Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths."

You see, other things got in the way of the Lord, and He was pushed aside, there was no hunger to know Him, and down the road, a nation that was born of God has now turned their backs on Him and were serving other gods, they were serving themselves! What about you? Be careful!

Remember the story in I Kings chapter 18 of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah is going to have a little contest, you might say, to see whose God is real, whose God answers prayer. And the contest was between the God of Israel, YAHWEH, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah.

Now these pagan gods were welcomed into Israel, they were worshiped by the Jews. In fact, Jezebel, the wife of the wicked king Ahab, these two you might call the demonic duo of the Old Testament, fed these pagan priests at the kings table! Listen to how bad things had gotten in Israel. In I Kings 16:29-33 we are told "In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him." That is how bad things were in Israel!

So Elijah calls for these pagan priests to come to Mount Carmel and offer a sacrifice to their god. In fact, they were to have fire come down from heaven and consume their sacrifice. But, before this had begun, we are told in I Kings 18:20-21, "So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word."

This is a sad commentary on the people of Israel. They really didn’t care, they were indifferent to the things of God, they would not even take a stand for God, and in that, it showed who they were serving! And Elijah makes a very interesting statement. He says, "...‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’..."

The Hebrew word that is used for "falter" literally speaks of being "lame." In other words, they were limping through life, stumbling around, crippled, because they would not take a stand for God to follow Him. And how many Christians do the same today? The dirty jokes, and nothing is said but Christians just listen, they don’t want to cause trouble. The deception or lying that goes on, and we don’t want to lose friends. Things said about God, and yet we don’t want to be seen as a Jesus freak! And in that we are being lame, limping through life because we refuse to take a stand for God.

And you know what happened to the prophets of Baal, they went all day shouting and screaming to their god to do something, and nothing happened. And then Elijah stepped forward, set up 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel, placed the wood and the sacrifice on the altar, filled 4 water pots and poured them over the wood and sacrifice, doing that 3 times and filling the trench with water around the altar. And as Elijah prayed, "Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’" I Kings 18:38-39.

How sad. They needed an outward sign to turn to God, and when that is the case, once that sign is gone, so will their walk with the Lord. Paul said in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Be in His Word and trust in His promises, serving Him and you will not falter, you will not be lame in your walk with Him!

And Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." What has a hold of your life? What are you consumed with? Because whatever it is, that is what or who you are serving. You can’t serve two masters, because each one will be moving you in the opposite direction. You must chose who you will serve, you see Jesus also said "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21.

What are you placing your hope in? What is the treasure of your life? May it be the Lord, because if it is, then that is where your heart will be for you will see the Lord as valuable, as priceless, as a treasure unto you! If not, then wherever your treasure is, that is your god, that is who your heart will be loyal to, that is who you will serve!

Some of you may remember this 1979 Bob Dylan song, Gotta Serve Somebody. Listen carefully to the lyrics, because he is right on in what he has to say, if only he would believe it and apply it to his life! The song goes like this:

You may be an ambassador to England or France,

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage,

You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,

you may be a business man or some high degree thief,

They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk,

You may be the head of some big TV network,

You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame,

You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home,

You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,

You might own guns and you might even own tanks,

You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,

You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,

You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair,

You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk,

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,

You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,

You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy,

You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy,

You may call me R. J., you may call me Ray,

You may call me anything but no matter what you say

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

- Bob Dylan, Gotta Serve Somebody, 1979

Don’t let things, possessions, get in the way of your relationship with Jesus, because if you do, your life will become desolate and in ruin, your life will have the remains of a past life, a past life with Jesus! Be as Joshua, who said "...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15. You see, we all Gotta Serve Somebody, may it be the Lord!