Prepare for Spiritual Warfare

Matthew 8:28-34


Jerry A Collins



v                 Can believers be possessed by demons?

v                 What is the relationship between demons and Christ?

v                 What does Jesus command over demons teach us about Him?


Mark and Luke give a fuller and more detailed account of this healing of the Gadarene demoniacs. Matthew includes more than one demon involved vs 29 but the others mention ‘legion’ referring to many demons who had taken possession of this man. Could it be 2000 or more since this was the approximate number of the herd of swine that is also included in the other accounts? Matthew does not record the specifics of the torment these demon-possessed experienced while living amongst the tombs—an apt place for demons to reside. Mark and Luke report that these were bound and shackled  more than once by the towns-folk for their protection from these but now the towns-folk simply avoided the area since the chains were often broken in pieces and no one was strong enough to subdue them. Night and day we learn that they scrambled around the tombs and in the mountains shrieking and gashing themselves with stones. They were reported to not be wearing clothing for a long time. Matthew also does not record the outcome of Jesus exorcism—these former demon-possessed now sitting at His feet, cleaned up, healed and sane, wanting to even follow Jesus. So including all of these accounts a picture emerges of the nature of demon possession and the incredible transformation taking place by means of this exorcism. Matthew’s shorter account with less detail is because His purpose or point is different. We might do the same thing in recounting an incident leaving out some of the details.  Here, Matthew wants us to be confronted by the reality of Jesus’ authority as the King of the Jews. He has authority over all of the powers in the natural and the spiritual realm. Matthew shows that Jesus had authority over the over the spiritual world—the world of spirits. Matthew has already told us of Jesus triumph over the prince of demons, namely Satan tempting Jesus. But moving from a private moment we now see Jesus in His public ministry taking control of even the world of spirits.  


1. Demons are fallen angels Rev 12:4 who joined Satan in rebellion against God and by this creating a spiritual warfare that reaches from heaven to earth Eph 6:10-12.

2. Some demons are so bad, they do not come to earth until the period of the Tribulation in Rev 9:1-12.

3. They will ultimately be cast into the Lake of Fire Rev 20:10. which is probably what they had in mind here saying ‘have you come to punish us before our time.

4. They recognize and know who Jesus is and call him the Son of God. They are servants of God because they cannot act without permission from God and they are responsible for the decisions they make.

5. Apparently demons can possess animals but they do not seem to prefer that over humans. They do not possess believers tho we can be attacked and can cause a great deal of trouble in the spiritual battles of life. But if the HS indwells us, as the Bible affirms, then demons can influence but not possess. We can resist the devil’s influence by submitting to God’s Word Jas 4:7.

6. Demon activity is real and aggressive in the dark reaches of rebellion and unbelief—where people make it easy for them to wield their influence. Some demons are more difficult to manage than others as Jesus explained to his disciples and required much prayer.


28    These men run to meet Jesus as soon as he is out of the boat. We learn of their violent behavior—people tried to tame them but now avoided being so dangerous. They came out of the tombs—a place ceremonially unclean for Israel but an adequate lodging for demons.

29    It is the demons speaking through these men having taken over their capacities to function. Their questions are telling. First, they know exactly who Jesus was. Contrast this with the disciples who had just asked What kind of man is this? Vs 27. So while free to do their thing, Jesus presence is very troubling to them. Second, they knew Jesus had the power to destroy them. There is even an appointed time to do that. They were afraid that their judge would cut their freedom short. The activity of demons is under the sovereignty of God. Think about this—even though they know of their impending doom they can only think about their wicked experiments for now—and that is how people are convinced by them to think. So the conflict wages—as the gospel makes inroads there is plenty of opposition. Herod tried to destroy  Jesus  and in was not acting alone—and in the book of Acts it reveals the simultaneous growth of the church  and opposition—one engineered by the HS and the other instigated by the spiritual underworld.


30     This territory across the lake from Capernaum is mostly Gentile. It is part of Decapolis—a league of ten mostly gentile cities on the eastern shore of Jordan River. This explains the pigs. These were unclean animals for Jews but not Gentiles.

31-32         If they could not stay in the men, the most natural place for these unclean spirits would be these unclean animals and so their request. According to the other accounts Jesus had already stated His intention to cast them out so they just decide to request where that should be. Jesus simply says GO! Just like rebuking the wind Peace, be still! Here is ultimate authority—commanding illness to depart, storms to calm, demons to leave! Simple, clear, concise and Matthew wants us to see this. So these powerful demons in a panic, afraid of Christ, worried their time at an end, are desperate against Christ! As they enter the herd of swine the poor animals cannot bare their presence—run headlong into the lake and drown. The demons did not drown and Mark tells us there are at least 2000 pigs. Here is victory over demons and then the rescue of those possessed.


33     The fleeing herdsman spread the news in the city and many rushed out from there to see for themselves what had happened.

34     Incredibly, they entreated Jesus to leave their area. They did not want him there among them. Jesus met rejection in His ministry. So the gospels record one of the great rejections of Christ in spite of the deliverance he brings and the power displayed.

1. Sometimes ministry is spiritual warfare, where your confrontation of evil will only bring about a rejection from people. Don’t expect a favorable response just because you are doing what God wants.

2. In our spiritual struggles, we are dealing with spirit forces, even though it looks like we have struggles with humans. Paul tells us we do not struggle against flesh and blood but against rulers. Authorities, powers of this dark world and of the heavenly realm Eph 6:12.

3. Victory over Satan and the demonic underworld is certain because Christ has defeated them at the cross and the resurrection. We only need to resist not wage war against the devil and he will flee from us. One day they will be punished forever.