"What have I to do with thee...?"
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
Question or Topic
There are several instances in the New Testament similar to Luke 8:28 where Jesus is told: "What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high". This phrase also appears several times in the Old Testament. For example, in I Kings 17:18, Elijah is told: "What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?"
The expression seems to be associated with the healing of an affliction that has been brought on through the consequences of either personal sin, or as the result of our sin-cursed nature. What are your thoughts on this phrase?
The expression "What have I (or we) to do with thee" is a Jewish idiom. It means "What is it to us and thee" or "What business hast thou with us". This phrase was often used in the Old Testament signifying an abrupt refusal of some request, or a wish not to be troubled with the company or importunity of others.
If we look at all of the several instances were some form of this expression appears we would conclude that it is not exclusively associated with either healing or sin. Examples of other uses are:
II Kings 3:13: "And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother." (In this incident, Elijah resisted providing counsel to the king of Israel).
2 Sam 16:10: "And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David." (Abishai the son of Zeruiah advised David to take vengeance on Shimei who was cursing him. David abruptly refused).
John 2:4: "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come." (In this case, Jesus resisted Mary, his mother, who was encouraging him to help out with the shortage of wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee).
Get Thee Behind Me
When we think about the many ways in which this idiom is used, we may wish to include another example that we are all familiar with. In this case, the wording is different, but the intention seems to be the same. The incident is in Matthew 16, where Peter attempts to convince Jesus that there is no need for him to be taken and crucified. We recall that Jesus said unto Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
Jesus was saying to Peter, "What have I to do with thee?" What business do you and I have together, as long as you are interested only in those things that are pleasing to men?
In a few of the incidents where the expression is used during the ministry of Christ, there is an indication that the association with Jesus is not being refused, but rather deferred. For example in Matthew 8:28-29 we read:
Matthew 8:28-29And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
This incident is a difficult one to understand. When Jesus had cast out the "devils" they were sent away into a herd of swine, which proceeded to run "down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters". There are several lessons that are included in this strange incident. They include:
A demonstration of the power of God working in Jesus. (The Holy Spirit)The destruction of a herd of unclean animals. (What did the Jews have to do with these?)A graphic illustration of the judgments of God that will be poured out on the unclean when the Kingdom comes.A visual lesson about the power of healing in the Kingdom age. (The power of the Age)
The Demonstration of Power
When Jesus encountered and healed people who had unclean spirits, it was necessary that there be some visual or vocal activity to demonstrate that a healing was actually taking place. Those who were afflicted often cried out with expressions such as "I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God" (Luke 4:34). These individuals were obviously influenced to provide testimony that this man was the Messiah.
In the incident of the herd of swine, those who were possessed cried out "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?"
Before the Time?
They were apparently inspired to testify that it was not the time for the judgments of God and the Kingdom age. Their healing would demonstrate however, that when that time did come, the judgments would be dramatic, and the power of God would be present to heal.
Many of the miracles that Jesus performed were on the Sabbath day. This was just one more lesson in prophecy. There was a coming "rest for the people of God" and that day would be an age of miracles. The healing during the ministry of Christ provided the "visuals" that supported the message of the gospel of the future Kingdom of God.
The miracles that Jesus performed were "before the time", but they were designed to teach those with ears to hear all about the time that was coming on the earth in the Kingdom age.
The expression "What have I to do with thee" is one that is usually spoken between individuals having an adversarial relationship, when one of the parties is unwillingly involved in an unpleasant encounter with the other. It may be spoken by a man of this world who is uncomfortable with the presence of another party who is living and teaching the gospel. Conversely, it should be spoken by a servant of God when he is being encouraged to follow the ways of the world.