Did you hear about the fire-spewing sinkhole that appeared in northwest China a few weeks ago? It’s so hot geologists haven’t been able to figure out how deep it is, and they can’t get close enough without getting burned. Their instruments topped out at 1500 degrees, so they had to stop.
Demons know exactly how hot it is, which is why they request of the incarnate Christ that they not be “tormented before the time” – that is – locked away in an abyss of torturous fire, the holding tank until final judgment. After judgment they go to a worse place: to be eternally burned in hell.
Therefore, the Gadarene demoniacs will be an event unlike any other for the disciples of Jesus Christ, who wants them to experience His power over the realm of the Demonic. Moreover, it’s a preview of coming ministry among the Gentiles – a year and a half away. Demons destroy lives, though usually far more subtle and hidden behind the excuses of human sin.
If you are into Zombie apocalypses, this is your kind of text. You can feel pity or, better, fear for your life. Hey – run for your life. If you are the disciples in this account – they’re coming for you! Immediately as Jesus and the men landing on the shore, they were “coming out of the tombs,” which is why Matthew adds the remaining detail – once these two demoniacs saw anyone, they came rushing at them, preventing them from passing through the territory, running for their lives, screaming! Mark’s gospel adds that one of the men had supernatural strength and was unable to be bound with chains.
So the demons ask Jesus two questions- “what business do we have with each other, Son of God?” and “have you come here to torment us before the time?” But the heart of their question is this – the power of Jesus, in His incarnation.
Having never met Him, these demons know exactly who He is. They call Him “the Son of God,” God Himself, 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, in human flesh, not as a Gentile but a Jew, in their territory. As such He is absolutely, overwhelmingly, fearful because they are impenitent.
And the disciples? Like you? They ought to know who Jesus is – the wind and waves obey Him. One ancient Church father compared the demons to the disciples, “while the men in the boat are doubting what manner of man this is, that even the wind and the waves and the sea obey him, the demons come to tell them!” (Theophylact).
The demons conclude one thing: Jesus has come to destroy them: “Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Notice the word “here.” The idea seems to be they are OK with Jesus in Israel, but ‘What are You doing here? In the Gadarenes?’
For the demons, it’s all about freedom, to do what they want, where they want. It’s autonomy. It’s sin. It hates Christ.
And that sort of thinking in us disciples blinds us to Jesus Christ, who will not only judge demons for that demand, but will take us through trials to break us of that sort of self will.