The prophetic meaning of Gadarene and Gerasene
Feb 26, 2014
Yesterday’s study was interrupted by a 3 ½ hour lunch with friends. That is why it was posted late in the day. I also forgot to include an important detail about the Gadarene.
As I said, Luke 8:37 says the demoniac came from “the country of the Gerasenes,” whereas Matthew 8:28 says he came from “the country of the Gadarenes.”
There is a prophetic reason that stems from the two different purposes and perspectives of the gospel writers. If you look at the flow of Matthew’s account, it is clear that he was recording a series of Jesus’ miracles wherein the people of faith were coming to Jesus for healing. Hence, they were all “rewarded in the end,” which is the meaning of Gadarene.
These were people who were motivated by faith in Jesus, and so Matthew’s key verse is in Matthew 8:17,
17 in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.”
On the other hand, Luke was focusing upon men’s lack of faith, beginning with Simon the Pharisee and even including the disciples themselves. His account climaxes with the Gerasenes, which comes from the Hebrew word ger, “alien, stranger, foreigner.” Gesenius Lexicon says that the word Gerasene means “a stranger drawing near.”
In other words, Luke’s terminology reveals the heart of the people in their perspective of Jesus, for they treated Jesus like an alien or foreigner. They were afraid of Him and wanted Him to leave their district. Prophetically speaking, Jesus came to cleanse them, but they preferred their unclean “swine” nature. They had opportunity to hear the Word and to reap the reward of faith, but they chose to reject the Word which alone could cleanse their hearts. In John 15:3 Jesus says,
3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Only the Word can cleanse our hearts. When men reject the Word, they remain as swine. In refusing to “chew the cud,” they eat the word but do not meditate upon it in order to transform it from physical to spiritual food. The grass remains in the first stomach (one’s head) but is not chewed again in order to be brought to the second stomach (one’s heart), where it can then be assimilated into the body.
So whereas Matthew portrays the story from the heavenly perspective of faith, Luke shows the reality that many on earth treat Jesus as a stranger or alien and thereby do not receive the reward of faith in this life time. I believe that this is why God inspired Matthew and Luke to give different names to the district in this story.
No doubt the region was called by both names. The older name was Gerasene, which appears to be a shortened form of Gergasene. The people inhabiting that area are called Gergashites, first mentioned in Genesis 10:16 and again in Genesis 15:21. Joshua conquered the Gergashites in Joshua 24:11. Hence, Gergasene or Gerasene is the Greek spelling of the ancient Hebrew name. Yet the name of the later city was Gadara, and so the people were also called Gadarenes.
The two names thus supply us with two perspectives from a prophetic standpoint, each according to the gospel writer’s purpose.
This is part 42 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones