28 “And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.” (Matthew 8:28 (ESV)
“Most, if not all, of the disciples have thus far not been privy to much of God’s great revelation about Jesus. They were not there when Joseph was told that his adopted Son would be of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18–25). Likewise, they were probably not present at His baptism, the occasion on which the Father declared Jesus His “beloved Son” (3:13–17). Having been absent when these things happened, it is understandable that these disciples are not yet fully aware of Christ’s divinity and have been left to wonder about the identity of this Nazarene,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.
Following the stilling of the storm (Matt. 8:23-27), Jesus and His disciples arrive on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. They arrive to the country of the Gadarenes.
Gadara was six miles (10 km) SE of the lake, near the gorge of the Yarmuk (or Hieromax). It was the capital of the Roman province of Peraea. Gadara dates from the OT period. It was held variously by Ptolemies, Seleucids, Jews and Romans between the 3rd century BC and the Jewish War. The ruins at Umm Qays now mark the site. Gadara was one of the Decapolis cities, which were a collection of ten Gentile cities.
Gadara was where Greeks settled following Alexander the Great’s conquest of the area in the fourth century bc. They were located to the southeast of the Sea of Galilee, with the exception of Scythopolis, which was west of the Jordan River. About ad 77 Pliny (a Roman historian) gave what is the earliest known list of the cities: Canatha, Damascus, Dion, Gadara, Gerasa, Hippos, Pella, Philadelphia, Raphana, and Scythopolis,” explains the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.
When Jesus and the disciples arrived, two demon-possessed men met the Lord. The men do not seem interest in the disciples; only Jesus. They were singularly focused on the Lord.
What is demon possession? It is the demonic occupation of a human being. “The term “possession” is misleading and is not the best translation for the Greek word daimonizomai, which literally means to be “demonized” and can often best be translated as “to have a demon.” The noun form is “demoniac,” explains the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.
These two demonically occupied men lived in the tombs (μνημεῖον; mnemeion). These were the graves of the dead. Tombs were ceremonially unclean for the Jews and were thought to be popular haunts for evil spirits.
Mark and Luke mention only one demoniac (Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:18-26), while Matthew says there were two. Perhaps it is because one man was more violent than the other, or because there were two witnesses to verify Jesus’ victory over demons (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 20:30).
Matthew describes the men as fierce (χαλεπός; chalepos). These were violent and dangerous men. Therefore, no one would travel near this particular area where they lived. No one, that is, except Jesus. The power He displayed over disease, distance, and nature, He would now display over demons and demoniacs.
Soli deo Gloria!