July 1, 2018

Gospel Commentary for the Fifth Sunday of Matthew (St. Theophylact of Ochrid)

Fifth Sunday of Matthew
Healing of the Gergesene Demoniacs

Matthew 8:28-9:1

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Matthew

By Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

28. And when He was come to the other side into the land of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with demons, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

While the men in the boat were yet wondering what manner of man this was that even the winds and the sea obeyed Him, the demons come to proclaim the answer. Although Mark and Luke speak of one man who was possessed by a legion of demons (Mk. 5:9, Lk. 8:27), understand that this one man was one of the two mentioned by Matthew, evidently, the more notorious of the two. Jesus came alone towards them, since no one dared to bring them to Him, so fierce were they. They dwelt among the tombs because the demons wish to inspire the belief that the souls of those who have died become demons. Let no one believe this: for when the soul departs from a man, it does not wander about the earth. For the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God (Wis. of Sol. 3:1), and the souls of sinners are also led away, as was the soul of the rich man, Lazarus.

29. And, behold, they cried out, saying, "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?"

Behold, they proclaim Him to be the Son of God, but first they declare their enmity. The demons consider it torment to be prevented from harming men. Understand the demons' words, "before the time," to mean that they thought that Christ, not enduring their great wickedness, would not wait for the time of their punishment. But this is not so; the demons are permitted to contend with us until the end of the world.

30-32. And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine grazing. So the demons besought Him, saying, "If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine." And He said unto them, "Go." And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine.

The demons asked this so that they could drown the swine, and thus the owners would be grieved and would not welcome Christ. Christ granted the demons their request in order to show how great is their bitterness towards men, and that if they had the power, and were not prevented as they are by God, they would do worse things to us than they did to the swine. For God protects those possessed by demons so that they do not kill themselves.

32-34. And, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told everything, and what was befallen to those possessed of the demons. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their region.

The inhabitants of the city begged Jesus to leave because they were grieved and thought that they would suffer something worse thereafter. You, O reader, learn that where there is swinish life, it is not Christ Who dwells there, but demons.

1-2. And He entered into a boat, and passed over, and came into His own city. And, behold, they brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed.

His own city means Capernaum, for it was there that He was living. He was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, and lived for an extended length of time in Capernaum.