Reflections and Blog

Bible Q&A: Matthew 8:34

I’m looking at another Bible question this week, this time about an event in the ministry of Jesus.

Question: After Jesus cast out the legion from the demoniac, why did the people plead with Jesus to leave their region? Matthew 8:34, “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”

In one sense, this question is the same question that Matthew wants the reader to ask: why would anyone ask the Savior to leave, especially after such an amazing miracle? However, when we look at the context and at the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke, we find our explanation. Right before the account of the demoniac in Mt 8:28-34 is the account about Jesus calming the storm (Mt 8:23-27). In both events, there is a terrible danger afflicting people (deadly storm and violent lunatic), and in both events the Lord Jesus exercises his power and authority to bring an amazing deliverance. The reaction in both events is also the same: not celebration but fear.

As many have noted: more frightening than a storm outside the boat is God in the boat. In the same way, more frightening than a legion-possessed man is the holy God who can command the wicked demon horde to depart. Such events are especially fearful for people who know that they are unholy (cf. Lk 5:8-9). Thus, Mark 5:15 says, “They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the ‘legion’; and they became frightened,” and Luke 8:37 records, “And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear.”

Now, while we can understand the people’s reaction, it was still a wrong and tragic choice, reminiscent of Adam and Eve’s choice to hide from God in the garden after they sinned (Gen 3:7-8). Though God is the holy and powerful judge, He is also the compassionate savior. Our natural inclination is to run from God and hide our sins, but there is no hope in such a course. True hope is found only by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again specifically to save sinners from their sins (Mt 1:21).