Possessed by Gádara

In this narrative Matthew offers us the opportunity to understand the power of Jesus over such spirits.

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Gospel - Matthew [8,28-34]

When Jesus reached the other bank, in the country of the Gadarenos, two possessed, coming out of a cemetery, came to meet him; they were so furious that no one could go down that road. And behold they began to shout: "What do you want from us, Son of God? Did you come here to torment us before the time?". Some distance from them was a large herd of grazing pigs; and the demons begged him saying: "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine". He said to them, "Go!" And they went out, and entered into the swine: and behold, the whole herd rushed off the cliff into the sea and died in the water. The herdsmen then fled and, entering the city, they told everything and also the fact of the possessed. The whole city then went out to meet Jesus: when they saw him, they begged him to leave their territory.

Exegesis - Matthew [8,28-34]

We are at the conclusion of Chapter 8, where Matthew underlines the three messianic signs and, in particular, the healing of the sick and the liberation from unclean spirits. In this narrative Matthew offers us the opportunity to understand the power of Jesus over such spirits. Previously, again in this Chapter, Matthew reports the story of the calmed storm, during which Jesus intervenes to calm the wind and the waters of the sea; at first glance, a certain curiosity is aroused by the fact that even the wind and the waves of the waters obey Jesus, but in this way Matthew highlights how Jesus acts on them as he knew that they were subjected, at that moment, to the action of a spirit unclean; and in fact he did not just placate them, but "got up, scolded the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm".
(Mt 8,26).

How is it that Jesus acts on them speaking as he would do with people, with living beings who understand human language and certainly not with the elements? It is evident that in this case, the evil one has used, as he sometimes does, the creation to rage against man; and then Jesus, who came to free us from such evil spirits, stands up and imposes his power on adverse events.

Now Matthew tells us that the devil was defeated during the crossing, but awaits Jesus on the ground; in fact, having reached the other shore in the country of the Gadarenes, Jesus, who was usually welcomed by the crowds who flocked, is instead awaited by two demoniacs who go to meet him to face him, and begin to shout: "What do you want from us, Son of God? Did you come here to torment us ahead of time?".

This cry "Son of God" is important: it is an affirmation that none of his disciples had ever made, the same one described by Luke for the episode of the Synagogue of Capernaum where, even in that case, a possessed person approached by Jesus shouts against: "Enough! What do you want from us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to ruin us? I know who you are: the saint of God!".
(Lk 4,34).

The evangelists agree in leaving us witness that the devil knows very well who Jesus is, while men proclaim him a prophet, others a sent by God, without being able to immediately recognize him as a son of God. The shocking thing is therefore that the devil is fully aware of the mystery of Jesus, the Son of God: "Did you come here to torment us before the time?", as if to say "what are you doing here now, your presence bothers me, you came too soon, before I have my kingdom made of this land and of the men who inhabit it"; and this is why the people of Gadara "went out to meet Jesus: when they saw him, they begged him to leave their territory": the evil one was subjugating all the inhabitants of that city so much as to set them against Jesus, the supreme Good, the "disturber" of evil; and they begged him to go.

Jesus is an obstacle to the diabolical work; it is no coincidence that the two demons on the shore cunningly ask him, if driven out, to be sent to the herd of pigs; and so it happened: the herd fell off the cliff and died in the waves, causing further damage to the Gadarenos, who lost an entire herd and felt "threatened" by the presence of Jesus; they did not care that the two demon-possessed fellow citizens had been freed, but the "torment" that Jesus was causing them with His presence and His work; but it could only be so, since the one who was guiding and inspiring them against Jesus was the devil himself.

The two possessed are described as furious to such an extent that no one could go down that road anymore: the demonic action acts to unbalance and destabilize the whole human person, so much so that when they left the body of men and entered the swine, the whole herd fell into waves and perished. But why does Jesus allow this to happen? Do we have to deduce that he was a fool, a reckless, who did not know what would happen? Allowing demons to go to swine is, for Jesus, a precious opportunity to demonstrate what the demon is capable of doing, which even reaches the destruction of an entire herd, an invaluable asset for the subsistence of that people (the Gadarians), for provoke it; that people, however, now have the choice of whether to stay with Satan and perish completely or stay with God and have the option of being freed from the captivity of the demon.

Matthew, in his narration, does more, pushes us to reflect: who are the true possessed? Who is on the side of the devil? The diabolical action is deducible from the state in which the sufferer finds himself: the two possessed on the shore are furious, because they refuse to submit to the will of Satan, and with their limited means they try to rebel against his power; the Gadarians, on the other hand, are "calm" and carry out the directives of the evil one (they cast out Jesus), because they have now become his instrument; they are the real possessed and it is for this reason that Jesus heals only the two obsessed, who are still refusing to be subjugated by Satan and - with their torment - show that they want to reject him.

The teaching of this parable is therefore that of always being vigilant towards a possible demonic action, because it is very ferocious, especially when the person has set out to follow Jesus: for the devil this is a defeat and he will do everything possible to discourage her on the way and make her rush back towards him. Whoever is faithful to the Lord will always be attacked by this strength, which leads to interior combat; but Jesus does not abandon him to himself, he supports him and can restore peace to him (in fact the two possessed are healed): for this reason, despite the attacks, we must never stop looking for him, going to meet him, following him, believe in Him and His promises.

We are all exposed to this evil force, whose weapons reside in flattery and earthly pleasures; if we are persevering in vigilance, we will not be taken by surprise and we will not fall into diabolical traps: only in this way, and with God's help, our certainties will not be undermined, and nothing can divide us from the Supreme Good. Only in you Lord can we find the strength and the certainty of not falling into the hands of the evil one: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life and we have believed and known that you are the Holy One of God".
(Gv 6,68-69).