Saturday, September 02, 2006

Can Demons Die?

I read Matthew's account of the Gergesene demoniacs today. Actually it was yesterday AND today since I am "translating" as I read. Something struck me as odd.

Demons are spiritual beings that don't die. So why would a possessed herd of pigs kill itself? Well, the swine certainly didn't know what was bugging them. So I don't think it was the demons that "made them" do it. It was the confusion in their little heads.

When suddenly met with an alien presense, they were spooked. They ran around and over a cliff because their keepers could not control them. Their keepers were miffed! So they went into town and a bunch of their friends came running to see the disaster. Funny how people never change.

And so, the newly disembodied spirits found a waiting audience of unbelievers to possess. At least that is one explanation for a whole town rejecting Jesus. Of course, it was just as true that God just didn't have any people in that town. Yet.

Matthew does not mention the task that the men (or at least one of them) was given by the Lord:

Mark 5:19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

And so, these men who so wanted to follow Jesus as members of the crowd were commissioned to evangelize this village of beligerent (and maybe demon-possessed) unbelievers!

I wonder why Matthew was so short on the details here. Mark, who usually gives a briefer account, pours on the details. It probably has to do with the audience who originally received the written gospels. The Jews were not so concerned about the details, but instead needed spiritual guidance. The Romans were stronger in their faith, but were further removed from the culture of the land of Israel.

Another explanation, though, is that these particular demons challenged the wrong rabbi! They acknowledged that Jesus was the son of God, but they thought they could outwit him. They knew their final fate would be in the pit, but they didn't want to go there any time soon. So, Jesus agreed to their compromise, knowing that the swine would immediately deprive the demons of bodies. And then, they would prematurely be cast into the fires of Gehenna to await the final judgment in torment!

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