11 March 2019Matthew 8:28–9:1
'What have you to do with us, Son of God?' (v. 29)
Psalm: Psalm 94
From Chapter 5 onwards, Matthew is showing Jesus to be someone with authority: authority to teach, authority over disease, authority over those who want to follow him and authority over the physical world. Here Matthew shows that Jesus has authority over the spiritual world, in a situation where the demoniacs are so ‘fierce’ no one dares go near their dwelling (v. 28).
Matthew moves us from the wildness of a storm in the preceding passage (Matthew 8:23-27) to the wildness of two humans with a storm raging within. As the sea calms down the disciples are left with a question: "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?" Surprisingly the answer comes from the possessed figures: "What have you to do with us, Son of God?" (v. 29). We will hear this title at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel as Jesus dies (Matthew 27:54), but here it is from the mouths of troubled people, before the disciples have even been able to answer it.
Jesus’ actions in response seem a little strange – not least of all to the swineherds who are left without a job! It’s no wonder they ask him to leave their village. But perhaps in this is a hint to the end of the Lenten story when Jesus will overcome all manner of evil in his death and resurrection. Jesus commands a response wherever he goes, whether of rejection as with the villagers here or utter acceptance. What’s certain is that this man of authority cannot be ignored.
- The demoniacs cry: ‘"What have you to do with us, Son of God?" What might the Son of God want of you today?
- Many scholars suggest that these and other possessed figures in the gospels are experiencing mental health crises. How can churches better support those who experience mental-health conditions?