Power over Satan

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Matthew 8:28-34 (Two demon-possessed men)

INTRODUCTION: Our series is called Ten Miracles of Jesus. We are studying Matthew 8-9, and so far we have looked at the first four miracles in these chapters. We saw that the first three miracles were all healing miracles of unlikely people, and the second three miracles are all miracles that especially show Jesus’ power. Last week we looked at Jesus’ power over nature. This week we will look at Jesus’ power over super-nature, that is Jesus’ power over the supernatural, specifically Jesus’ power over Satan. Earlier in Matthew 4 we saw how Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. Now here in Matthew 8 he will show his power over Satan in the graveyard. (Read Matthew 8:28-34 and pray.)

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I wish I could tell you that you don’t have an enemy this morning but you do. You know the old saying, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer?” Well that doesn’t work with this enemy. He is the enemy of God and all that is good. He is the enemy of the entire human race. And he is your enemy as well. There is nothing he would like more than to see you fail God, hurt the people you love and ruin your own life in the process. He would destroy your life if he could, and he has destroyed many lives over the centuries. I am talking about Satan, of course. The Bible also calls him the devil, the tempter, your accuser and adversary.

Satan is a fallen angel who was created good but rebelled against God. He was thrown out of heaven along with the many angels who joined his rebellion. He is the one who introduced sin into our world in the garden, and he continues to wreak havoc in our world today.

In today’s passage we are going to be looking at Jesus’ power over Satan. And when we talk about Satan, we are not just talking about the actual personal being of Satan. We are talking about him, but we are also talking about all the fallen angels or demons who fell with him and follow his commands.

The Bible says we are part of a huge battle. Spiritual warfare is real, and Satan really is your enemy. But the good news of the miracle in today’s passage is that Jesus has complete power over Satan, and that Satan has no power over Jesus and those who belong to Jesus.

We are going to look at this miracle in three parts this morning. First we will look at verses 28-29 where Jesus confronts Satan. Then we will look at verses 30-32 where Jesus overpowers Satan. And then finally we will look at verses 33-34 where we learn that Satan still works to deceive in the world today.

I. Jesus confronts Satan (28-29)

So first of all, Jesus confronts Satan. Look at verses 28-29. “When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’” (Matthew 8:28-29)

So when Jesus and his disciples arrive at the other of the lake, they are confronted by these two demon-possessed men. Some people are bothered by the fact that Matthew reports two demon-possessed men in this account while Mark and Luke only report one demon-possessed man in each of their account. But there is really no conflict in reporting one or two. We often only report one when there are more than one. For example, if I come home and tell my wife, “I saw ‘so-and-so” at men’s study today,” it doesn’t mean he was the only one there. It just means I am emphasizing him over the others. And Mark and Luke in their accounts may well have wanted to emphasize the man who had the most demons. Because as we will see, he had a lot of demons.

   A. Satan comes to steal and destroy
      – John 10:10

There are a number of things we learn from Jesus’ confrontation of Satan in these verses. The first is that Satan comes to steal and destroy. Jesus says this about Satan in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Notice not only does Satan come to steal and destroy, that’s all he does! The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. That’s what Satan does, and that’s all he does. There is simply nothing life giving or life affirming about Satan and his actions in any way.

And this is clear from these two demon-possessed men who meet Jesus on the other side of the lake. Notice they are coming from the tombs. This is appropriate as Satan is the one who kills and destroys rather than gives life. Notice their violent ways, so violent that no one could pass that way. Satan has not only ruined these two men’s lives but seeks to further damage anyone who comes within their radius. The gospels of Mark and Luke give us further details. At least one of these men ran around naked (Luke 8:27) and cut himself with sharp stones. (Mark 5:5)

Satan has made a wreck of these two men’s lives. He has stolen them from their homes and families. He has stolen their peace and their sanity. He has driven them to violence. He has cut them off from community and doomed them to isolation among the tombs.

This is Satan’s legacy. This is what he does. This is all he does. This is what the world would look like if Satan had complete charge instead of God. That’s the first thing we learn from Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in these verses. Satan comes only to steal and destroy.

   B. Satan knows Jesus is God
      – James 2:19

Secondly, Satan knows that Jesus is God. When the two demon-possessed men come up to Jesus and his disciples, the demons scream at Jesus, “What do you want with us, Son of God?” (Matthew 8:29) Notice they address Jesus as the Son of God. Remember Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man in order not to broadcast his deity. But the demons come right out with it, acknowledging Jesus as more than just a man. He is the very Son of God.

What’s ironic here is that just two verses back, the disciples were in the boat with Jesus after he calmed the storm asking, “What kind of man is this?” Now the demons answer their question for them. What the disciples debated, the demons proclaim. The demons know who Jesus is. He is the Son of God.

James writes in James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” (James 2:19) The demons believed in one God. They believed Jesus was the Son of God. But they were still not saved. The demons’ proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God here in Matthew 8 shows us that saving faith is more than just believing something with your mind. You must actually put your trust in Jesus to be saved. The demons knew that Jesus was God, but they weren’t trusting him for anything.

That’s the second thing we learn from Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in these verses. Satan knows that Jesus is God.

   C. Satan knows his time is short
      – 1 John 3:8; Jude 6; Revelation 12:12

And then the third thing we learn is that Satan knows his time is short. After the demons address Jesus as the Son of God, they shout at him: “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29)

Don’t miss the first part of the question. “Have you come here?” “Have you come here” – from where? Certainly not from the other side of the lake. This question goes deeper than that and presupposes that Jesus came from heaven to earth. That’s how the demons knew him. They knew Jesus in his pre-incarnate state as the eternal Son of God in heaven. Jesus threw them out of heaven to begin with. Now he will drive them out of these men. One day he will judge them forever.

Now the demons have a pretty good theology here. They believe in the existence of God. They believe in the deity of Christ. And they believe in the certainty of future judgment. Once again you can know a lot about the Bible and you can believe a lot of the right things without being saved. Salvation comes from personally trusting Jesus as your Savior, not just believing a lot of right things about him.

The demons know why Jesus is here. 1 John 3:8 says: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8) That’s why Jesus came to earth. Not only to save us, but to destroy the work of Satan.

And they know that judgment is coming. We read in Jude 6 that: “the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” (Jude 6)

There is an appointed time for judgment, and Satan and his demons know that. That’s why we read in Revelation 12:12: “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12) When Jesus comes back, he will bring the kingdom of God in its fullness, and Satan and all his demons will be judged. There is an appointed time coming for judgment, and Satan knows it.

That’s what we learn from Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in these verses. Satan comes to steal and destroy. Satan knows Jesus is God. Satan knows that his time is short.

II. Jesus overpowers Satan (30-32)

Next we move from Jesus confronting Satan to Jesus overpowering Satan. Look at verses 30-32:
“Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ 32 He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.” (Matthew 8:30-32)

   A. Satan has no power over Christ
      – John 14:30-31

These verses teach us several things about Jesus’ power over Satan. First of all, Satan has no power over Christ. Did you notice how the demons are literally begging Jesus in this passage? They don’t even put up a fight, because they know they are no match for Christ.

Remember in the Old Testament when Satan approached God about Job? Satan couldn’t do anything to Job without first asking permission. Satan has a lot of power in this world, but he has no power except that which God allows him.

And he certainly has no power over Christ. Jesus told his disciples in John 14 right before going to the cross: “I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:30-31)

When Jesus tells his disciples that Satan has no hold on him, he is literally saying, “He has nothing on me.” Jesus went to the cross not because Satan had any power over Christ, but because Jesus loves the Father and does exactly what the Father commands him. The cross was God’s idea, not Satan’s. In the great contest between Jesus and Satan there is no contest. Satan has no power over Christ.

   B. Satan must obey Jesus’ commands
      – James 4:7-8

Secondly, Satan must obey Jesus’ commands. The demons begged Jesus to send them into the pigs. And as soon as Jesus said, “Go!” they went. At that point they had no choice in the matter. Notice Jesus just says the word and they go. The demons shouted at Jesus. Jesus simply spoke to them. Jesus would later tell his disciples that some demons would only come out for them with much prayer and fasting. But Jesus just says the word, and the demons obey him.

James 4:7-8 says: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:7-8) Notice the first step is for you to submit yourself to God. That’s because Satan does not need to obey any of your commands! You only have authority over Satan in Christ, but when you first submit yourself to God in Christ, then when you resist Satan, he will flee.

And so Satan must not only seek God’s permission for things he wants to do, he must also obey God’s commands for things he doesn’t want to do. Satan must obey Jesus’ commands.

   C. Satan’s doom is sure
      – Colossians 2:15; Revelation 20:10

And then the third thing we learn from these verses is that Satan’s doom is sure. This is demonstrated by the mad rush of the pigs down the hillside and their dying in the lake.

People sometimes wonder why Jesus allowed the demons to go into the pigs. They think, “That wasn’t very nice to those poor pigs. Somebody call PETA!” Well remember those pigs were going to get slaughtered and eaten anyways! I once knew a guy who owned four pigs. He loved those pigs! He even named them. He named them Ham, Bacon, Pork and Sausage. He loved his pigs, but he knew what they were ultimately meant for.

So why did Jesus allow the demons to go into the pigs? I believe it was meant as a visual demonstration of his power. The gospel of Mark tells us there were about two thousand pigs in the herd, and so this shows the great number of demons that were driven out of these men. It’s one thing to drive out one demon, and trust me, even one demon has far greater power than you or I could ever muster. We would be completely outmatched. So it’s one thing to drive out one demon. It’s another thing to drive out two, but to drive out thousands of demons with a simple command is an amazing display of power.

Once again, this is a preview of coming attractions, a prelude of what is yet to come. Now we know that Jesus already won total victory over Satan at the cross. For example, we read in Colossians 2:15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15) So Jesus has already defeated Satan at the cross.

When Jesus comes back, he will bring the kingdom in its fullness and at that time Satan’s power will be completely destroyed. We read about Satan’s final judgment in Revelation 20:10: “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)

What do we learn from this section on Jesus overpowering Satan? Three things. Satan has no power over Christ. Satan must obey Jesus’ commands. Satan’s doom is sure.

III. Satan still works to deceive (33-34)

So far we have seen Jesus confronting Satan. We have seen Jesus overpowering Satan. And now the last two verses of this passage teach us that Satan still works to deceive. Look at verses 33-34: “Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.” (Matthew 8:33-34)

So those who had been tending the pigs run off and tell the town what happened with the pigs, oh, and also what happened to the demon-possessed men. I love that little detail, “including what happened to the demon-possessed men.” It’s almost as if they included that part as an afterthought. In other words, they missed the whole point. As far as they were concerned the main story had to do with the pigs!

The whole town comes out to meet Jesus, but instead of welcoming him and embracing him with faith, they ask him to leave. Satan may no longer possess the two men of the tombs, but he continues to deceive the whole town about Jesus. And just as the demons begged Jesus to send them into the pigs, so the people from the town plead with Jesus to leave their region. (“begged” and “pleaded” = same word in the Greek)

   A. The whole world is under Satan’s control
      – 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19

The Bible teaches us that Satan’s future doom is sure, but in the present the whole world is under Satan’s control. We read in 1 John 5:19: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) And because Satan is still in charge of this world, he continues to deceive people about Jesus. As we read in 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

The people in the town were deceived about Jesus. Jesus had just cast thousands of demons out of these two men and restored them to their right minds. And yet the people were so upset about losing the pigs, they wanted Jesus to leave. D.A. Carson writes: “The loss of the herd became a way of exposing the real values of the people in the vicinity. They preferred pigs to persons, swine to the Savior.” (Matthew, EBC) I hope we can all agree that people are more important than pigs. And I hope we can even more agree that Jesus is more important than pigs.

Notice they blame Jesus for the loss of the pigs rather than Satan. Yes, Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the pigs, but Satan is the one who drove the pigs into the water. Satan is the thief who comes to steal and destroy. And yet they blamed Jesus, and they asked him to leave.

They asked Jesus to leave, and he left. We don’t know that he ever returned. Be careful what you ask, especially when you ask Jesus to leave you alone. If you make anything in your life more important than Jesus, you are being deceived by Satan and you will eventually lose out.

   B. Jesus has come and has given us understanding
      – 1 John 5:20

Satan still works to deceive in this world, but Jesus has come and given us understanding. We looked at 1 John 5:19 a minute ago which said that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. Now let’s look at verse 20: “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.” (1 John 5:20)

Yes, Satan still deceives, but Jesus has come and has given us understanding. He reveals the truth to us so we may know him who is true. He opens the eyes of those who have been blinded by the god of this age so that we may see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

Satan still deceives. The whole word is under his control. But Jesus has come and has given us understanding.

CONCLUSION: What does this miracle mean to us today? Jesus has complete power over Satan. Satan was defeated at the cross. His time is short and his doom is sure. He has no power over Christ, and he has no power over those who belong to Christ. Satan cannot bring any harm into your life without God’s permission, and God will only permit that which is for your ultimate good.

Satan still works to deceive, and the whole world is under his control. People don’t believe because Satan has blinded their minds so that they cannot see the light of Christ and his glory. But if you are in Christ, Jesus has opened your eyes so that you may see the truth.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been given authority in Christ. You do not need to fear Satan or his attacks. The great deceiver has been defeated! So don’t give into his lies anymore. Jesus has come and given us understanding. So let us walk in the light and live according to God’s truth rather than Satan’s lies.

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