Sunday sermon on the Gospel lesson from Matthew 8:28-9:1
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
As Christ healed the two demon-possessed men, the people who saw it, ran to the city and told everyone, “Come all! You have to see this. This Man has just healed the two possessed, and caused all of our pigs to run off the bank into the sea!”
As the people were gathering, they were asking each other: “What do they mean, healed? Those two couldn't be contained by chains and someone was crazy enough to approach them? And what is this about our pigs running off the cliff? How are we to support ourselves, if it’s true?”
The whole city came out to the shore and saw the two possessed men, now in their right mind, talking to a Stranger. They also saw the last of their herd drowning in the sea. And fear seized them. Clearly this wasn't a simple Man because no one before could restrain the two demoniacs, and here He is having a conversation with them.
“He must be a prophet,” they thought, “and He is here to punish us for breaking the Law and growing the pigs.” Even greater fear seized them, at the same time, mixed with anger for all the lost pigs. And they could come up with nothing better than to ask Him, politely, to leave them alone.
“We do not know who You are or what You want from us, but please depart from us. We do not need anything from You, no matter what it is that You have to offer.” They said this with fear and trembling, unsure what He might do. To their relief, He simply turned around, got into His boat, and left.
As far as first impressions go, Jesus made a really strong one on the people of Gergesenes. Not only did He heal the two demoniacs, whom the Gergesenes could not control, even chaining them did not help. He also prevented them from further breaking the Law of Moses by casting the pigs into the sea.
They were definitely impressed. Impressed to the point of fear. Fear that this Man may further disturb the routine of their sinful life. This fear wasn't of wonder and amazement of the miracles, their fear was of displeasure and anger towards Christ.
Why couldn't they see the miracles performed by Him as something amazing? Could it be that their pattern of sinful life blinded them to behold and receive Christ? The country of Gergesenes at that time was a lively and rich country. It was a region with significant commercial trading. It’s not hard to imagine who, or rather what, was the lord in that region. It was money, the wealth. Wealth ruled everyone completely.
We live close to one of the major commercial areas in the world. And it seems sometimes that the main goal of our life is to be financially stable. In this sense we are not at all different from the Gergesenes of the first century. For them financial stability was the main and only goal of life. It was so important that they were willing to break their own Law of Moses about growing, eating or touching pigs. Our world is so submerged in worshipping wealth that we simply do not see any other way.
Now imagine the effect Christ’s healing miracle had on the herdsmen, the ones whose only job was to look after the swine, that they left it and ran to the city to tell everyone about what they had witnessed. They left behind perhaps the main source of their income and ran away in fear.
Imagine the shock of the people when they saw the two demoniacs quietly sitting at the feet of this Newcomer and their income, their wealth, their pigs, drowning. It was clear that a miracle happened, all that the Gergesenes had to do now was to thank and praise God that He honored them by sending this marvelous and great Man.
But the every-day fuss, like rust, ate into their hearts. Every-day worries of what they were to eat, how they were to support their families, how they were to entertain themselves, made them unable to behold the significance of these events, and they were unable to recognize in Jesus the Messiah, who came to liberate them from their slavery to wealth, to sin.
Jesus saved two of their own, but perhaps everyone else was even more possessed, and perhaps they liked the chains of their slavery and lost the ability to see miracles, to see the mystery of God’s love. So the people did not have any other choice than to ask Christ to leave them alone. They chose slavery over freedom.
Are we, likewise, in danger of completely misplacing our values and serving the wrong god? By making wealth, or any other earthly care our main goal in life, we not only drive Christ away, we kick Him out of our lives. And it happens because of fear – the fear of God, being scared of His power and majesty and love.
Like for the Gergesenes, if something is alien or hard to explain, or causes fear, we tend to reject it, cast it out. And this happens often with God. We are uncomfortable in His presence because it changes our routine, sinful life. We do not wish for Him to visit us, and ask Him to leave.
Today we are shown that only Christ is capable of destroying our human disasters and save us from evil, like He saved the two demoniacs.
This can also lead to fear, but completely different fear than the one Gergesenes experienced – the fear of being without Christ. This kind of fear happens in our hearts when we realize our unworthiness before God, and it becomes the seed of faith.
After He was rejected by the Gergesenes, Jesus got into a boat, crossed over the sea “and came to his own city.” We are His city. He came to die and liberate us from sin by His death. He liberated us from serving false gods. He leads us out of our convenient lives and sinful negligence and into eternal life.
As Saint Paul says in today’s epistle, “If we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.” Accept Christ, and do not be afraid of Him, but rather be afraid to be without Him, strive to change for Him and in Him because only in Christ is the true purpose of our life. In Him alone is the stability and security we seek.
Therefore, to Him alone we give glory, honor, and worship, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
Unless otherwise specified, the articles here are posted by Father Aleksey, who has no sense of humor and is extremely straight forward.