For an introduction to this series, click here.
Jan. 21, 2007
This long chapter basically tells two stories: the maniac of Gadara, and the raising of Jairus' daughter along with the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. We've already discussed these stories, so this will probably be brief.
The first thing I notice is that these people were presumably Jews living in the area on the other side of Jordan. You remember that the tribes of Gad and Reuben and half of Manasseh did not cross the Jordan with Moses, but occupied land on the east side. This is why it is called the land of Gadara, for the tribe of Gad. It is unlikely that the people there were actually of the tribe of Gad, for that is one of the so-called lost tribes, but the Jews who lived across the Jordan were always less serious about their religion than the Jews in Israel proper.
Their lack of religious fervor probably explains the pigs the people were raising. What was worse, they did not care about the poor man. As long as he was under control and not messing with their lives, they never gave him a second thought. So when Jesus healed the man and chased the pigs into the sea, all they were concerned with was their livelihood. It was not until after Jesus left and the man began to live among them and tell everyone that they "marveled" at what Jesus had done. This is an important lesson for us. It is so easy for us to get caught up in making money and trying to get through our lives that we miss the miracles God is doing in our midst.(Of course you understand what I mean by miracles. One of these days I will go through the biblical definition of a miracle, which is different from what we think of.)
Well, let's go ahead and do that. Biblically, a miracle is proof of a special calling of God upon a person. Miracles in the Bible basically occurred with only three great people and their successors: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and the Apostles. If you count the time of the Judges, which could be viewed as an extension of the time of Joshua, then that takes care of just about every miracle in the Bible. But even the Judges, such as Gideon and Samson, did not have the power that the six mentioned above did. They merely had miraculous things happen to them, just like Daniel and Jonah. But the six could command that something happen, and God made it so.
This is why it is so dangerous when people today claim to see miracles all the time. My question is, whose ministry is God commending before all the world? I know that God accomplishes wonderful things in our lives, and in the common understanding of the word it is not incorrect to call it a miracle, but remember that a true miracle is always performed by someone who is demonstrating God's power to a skeptical world: Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, Peter, John, Paul.
Let's not even start with people today who claim to perform miracles. Most of these miracles are dubious at best. The Catholic Church also counts reappearances as miracles, so an appearance of a saint in a pizza seen by some wacko can get a person sainthood status. As you may or may not know, you have to perform two miracles to be a saint in Catholicism. I hope I don't need to say too much about the quacks on TV today who perform "miracles."