Jesus Heals Two Demon-Possessed Men

From Matthew 8:28–34 (NLT):
28 When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area.
29 They began screaming at him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?”

30 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31 So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”

32 “All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
33 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.

Here we see how Jesus “exorcises” two demon-possessed men and sends the demons into a herd of pigs, which promptly runs off the nearby cliff to drown in the sea. But the people are not happy when they see their pigs have just gone over the edge, so they ask Jesus to leave. Why, one might question, did they herd pigs? Because on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee lived Gentiles, not Jews. (I’ve seen the location where this happened. The cliff is steep, but now filled with mines from a previous Arab-Israeli war.)

One might ask: Do demons even exist? When God created the heavens and the earth, part of his work was to create spiritual realms. To populate them he created the spiritual beings we call angels. Because they had free will, one of the leaders of these angels became filled with pride, envy, and jealousy. He rebelled against God and took one third of the heavenly populace with him. Today we call him Satan, the Devil, or the Adversary. When God cast him and his rebellious followers out of heaven, those angels became demons. They exist on another spiritual plane.

We’ve now looked at five miracles from the Bible. But what about the miracles of other religions? Next time we’ll look at the miracles of Islam.

Arguments Against Miracles

We’ve now shown four miracles from the Bible. It’s time to hear from the skeptics why miracles aren’t possible. To do this I warn readers that we must delve into some logic. We won’t do this very often, so bear with me.

The arguments against miracles usually boil down to this objection: Miracles violate natural laws and those laws are absolute and unchangeable. The philosopher David Hume went further and proposed possibly a stronger argument. Here it is, summarized by Norman Geisler, with simplified language:

1. Natural laws describe normal, regular occurrences in the world.
2. A miracle is by definition a rare occurrence.
3. The evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare.
4. A wise man always bases his belief on the greater evidence.
5. Therefore, a wise man should never believe in miracles.

To boil this down to plain English, what Hume is saying is that we shouldn’t believe in miracles because they’re rare and don’t happen very often. By his logic if the first four points are true, then we must believe his conclusion in point 5. However Geisler points out that his third premise is false. The evidence for rare events is actually quite large. If we can disprove it, then Hume’s whole argument falls apart.

We only need a single example to disprove premise three, but Geisler gives us four:

1. The origin of the universe. It only happened once.
2. The origin of life on earth only happened once.
3. The origin of new life forms only happened once.
4. In fact the entire history of the world is comprised of rare, unrepeatable events. All of us were born once, yet we have no trouble believing in it.

Chesterton-miraclesSo we do have copious evidence that rare, unrepeatable events occur all the time. But even so, his argument doesn’t look at the evidence for whether a miracle actually occurred or not. If we have eyewitnesses and documentation that prove certain miraculous events actually did occur, then all the philosophy in the world cannot contradict it. They still happened. But according to Hume, we should discount reports of miracles before they happen. And if they did happen, we should not believe in them. This is circular, faulty reasoning.

Next time let’s return to what the Bible records as Jesus heals two demon-possessed men. There we’ll also talk some about miracles and demons.

Jesus Heals a Roman Officer’s Servant

Today we’ll look at a miracle of Jesus from Matthew 8:5–15 (NLT):

5 When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, 6 “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”
7 Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
8 But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 9 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! 11 And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. 12 But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.

Here we see Jesus healing—remotely!—the servant of a Roman officer. The act confirms Jesus as God’s Son and confirms the message of eternal life that he brings.

So far we’ve looked at four biblical miracles. Next time let’s examine some arguments against miracles and see whether they hold up.