The Gergesene demoniacs
We all must answer the question,

“What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?”

The answer  of the The Holy Apostles

&St Photini, Equal to the Apostles (the Samaritan woman)

5th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 8:28-9:1
2009 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?”


said the demoniacs when Jesus approached them. This is a question that all of us should answer.


Remember I told you, when the Scripture says something, it’s saying it to you. When these demoniacs are saying, “What have we to do with Thee,” doesn’t that question also apply to us? What are we to do with Jesus? Jesus has done something for us. He said to do things. He came, He preached, He died, He was resurrected, He sent the Holy Spirit to us. What are we to do with this?

Today we happen to celebrate the Apostles Peter and Paul. And the Apostles are the quintessential example of answering this question.


Everyone is going to answer it. Whether they acknowledge Christ or not, they will answer this question of what they are to do with Christ.

What did the Apostles do?


In the beginning when they were fishing, the Lord said, follow me; and they left their nets, their father, everything, and they followed Him. And then they were with Him for three years, difficult years, years of pain, years of hunger, of fatigue, of danger, and years of learning about themselves, as we can see examples where the Lord showed them where their imperfections were.


And then they were prepared to go out and have their sound go forth over all the world [1].


But why did all this happen? Because they answered this question, “What have we to do with Thee?”

In the same way, everyone is going to come out to meet Christ, just like the people of the Gergesenes.


The whole town went out to meet Christ after He had healed the demoniacs. And to a man they said, depart from us, leave us. And He did. Everyone is going to come out to meet Christ. They will either ask Him to stay or ask Him to leave. And He will either stay or leave, depending on what we ask.

Of course, it’s not just what we say with our lips. It’s also what we do with our deeds. We must live in such a way that the Lord sees that we do love Him and that we do desire Him. So, just to say something doesn’t really matter. We must do it.

The people of the Gergesenes suffered a great tragedy on this day. The Lord came to them and they rejected Him. They were afraid of Him. They saw a great miracle. They saw their pigs all killed, so their way of commerce was destroyed. They were afraid. They were angry. They were confused. So they asked Him to go away, and He did.


And the next day was the same as the previous. The sun rose, they ate, they drank. They eventually got more pigs and they forgot about that terrible, frightening occurrence that happened so many years ago for them. But God had come to them, had visited them and they had rejected Him.

Brothers and sisters, God visits us every day. This is not a trite phrase. This is the truth. So every day we should be answering this question, What are we to do with what God does for us? Whether we go out to meet Him in our mind, absolutely consciously, or not, we are going to see Christ, and we are asking Him to either stay or leave, and He will stay or leave.

This Gospel is one of the most tragic of any and all of Scripture because it really, in a nutshell, shows how people’s lives are lost. They’re lost by just living their life, not thinking of God, doing what they want to do, and then they die. And most of them will not know what they have missed until the Judgment. What a terrible, terrible tragedy. An unseen tragedy. An invisible tragedy.


This tragedy is happening in our lives too. Because every time that we choose the wrong way, we are like the people or the Geresenes. I am not saying that we’re rejecting Christ and telling Him to go away forever. But we are losing an opportunity for sanctity, for blessedness.

Saint Peter seized upon these opportunities for blessedness. The Lord said, “Who does everybody think I am?” So the Apostles say, some say you are John the Baptist, some say Elias, one of the prophets. So obviously there was confusion about who Christ might be. This was after, of course, the Baptist had been beheaded. Simon Peter with courage seized on the moment and said, You are the Christ. [2]


Now, it doesn’t matter that later on he obviously wavered in his faith. He’s human. But when he could, he did what was right and that is what made Peter great. We must, when we can, do what is right. Because there are so many times we do what is wrong, we must seize upon the moment. These people of the Gergesenes didn’t do it. The Apostles did.

There’s another Apostle who did. I always mention her every time we have this story about the Gergesene demoniacs. And that is Saint Photini, Equal to the Apostles [3]. The stories are striking in their parallels and in their differences.


Saint Photini, had had five husbands, and the one she was with was not her husband, and the Lord told her all these things. What did she do? Well, she went away into the city forgetting her water pot - she had come to get water, but what did she need water anymore for? She had Living Water now - to tell everyone, “Come see a man who has told me everything that I have done.” [4] She knew that this was the Christ, and this was someone that she wanted those whom she loved to know about.


How was her reaction to having her sins exposed? Joy, relief, zeal.

Now, what was the reaction of the pig shepherd boys? They fled to the city and told their masters about it, and everyone came out in an uproar and afraid and told the Lord to leave. And so a great tragedy happened for them.

A great blessedness for Saint Photini, and great blessedness for the Apostles when they accepted the Lord’s gentle rebukes. And a great tragedy for those Gergesenes who, when they see their sins, looked away and asked the Lord to leave.

Brothers, we should not be like this. We must emulate the Apostles. We must emulate Saint Photini, Equal to the Apostles.


When the Lord reveals our sins, we should be glad because He is unburdening us. He is helping us to strive for perfection. We can’t be happy if we are still sinning. He can forgive sins seventy times seven. But we are still sinners, and sin hurts and causes illness.

The Lord came so that we would no longer be sinners. But we must answer the question every day: What are we to do with Him?

Those who do not love God answer it in such a way as to say, Go away. Not in so many words. But in the way they live their lives and their priorities and what they think is important and what they do, they say, Go away.

Those who love God and are called according to His purpose, they beg Him to stay.

So let us be like the Apostles and learn from Christ and answer this question as they did. What are we to do with Thee, Jesus? Amen.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.    


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[1] This references the Prokeimenon for the Apostles, used in the Liturgy for them.


[2] Matthew 16:13-16 KJV  When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?  (14)  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  (15)  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  (16)  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.


[3] The “Samaritan Woman”. The Sunday of the Samaritan woman is the fifth Sunday of Pascha. Homilies here:


[4] John 4:28-29 KJV  The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,  (29)  Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?