Thursday, March 7, 2013

Luke 8:26-39

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.  And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

After the calming of the storm, the stunned disciples land on the other side of the Galilee. Several boats of people step off into the land of the Gerasenes. The people here were culturally more Hellenistic than Semitic, accounting for the presence of pig farmers. Needless to say, these folks were not Orthodox Jews. Perhaps this will be a place Jesus and his small crowd of disciples can find respite from the throngs.

Up on the hill were two demon possessed men who lived among the tombs. If the one in this story lived today, he would be jailed or institutionalized and heavily sedated with drugs. He was dangerous to himself and society and had been banished from civilization. The locals had tried binding him with heavy chains, but in fury he ripped them apart. No guard could keep him controlled. Imagine this man: naked, skin marred from the beating sun in the day and exposure to cold at night, cuts and scars from self-mutilation. When anyone neared the tombs he would run down to attack them. The townspeople knew to steer clear.

As Jesus and his crowd entered this man's territory, he flew down the hill towards them. Perhaps at first the demons did not recognize this man who looked like any other. At the command of Jesus to leave the man the demons threw their host to the ground, not in worship but in fear. Controlling his voice, they ask "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me." We know from other scriptures that some demons are bound for now in the Abyss and some are allowed to roam the earth, destroying whom they can. These demons know Jesus has the power to bind them or destroy them. No one outside Jesus and his apostles have had this power.

The demons beg to be sent into a herd of pigs. For Gentiles the herd of pigs would be a standard way to make a living. For Jewish observers they would be a source of revulsion. (I would be thinking Carolina barbecue myself!) For whatever reason, Jesus let the demons have their choice. Good news for the man, bad news for the pigs and the farmers. Possession stirred the pigs into a panicking mob, rushing over the cliffs and into the sea to drown.

The herdsmen immediately run into town to alert the townspeople. They come out amazed that the insane dangerous man is now sitting clothed, calmly sitting at the feet of a Jewish teacher. Whereas other regions mobbed Jesus for more miracles, here they were afraid of this sorcery and more concerned about the loss of monetary gain. The cured man had a different attitude. He begged Jesus to be allowed to come along as a disciple. But Jesus sent him home to be a witness to the fearful townspeople who had expelled Jesus from their region.

It is said that the greatest lie of Satan is that he has convinced the world that he either does not exist or that he has unimaginable power. We cannot understand everything about the unseen spirits, but any of our knowledge should come from the Bible, not from Hollywood or people's personal accounts.

Demons around Jesus could not help but reveal themselves. But as a rule they are much more subtle. They are still at work today. Although we may not pass our children through the fires of Baal, we surgically abort about 3,288 babies per day in America (not to mention the morning after pill). Although many who support abortion want them to be "safe and rare", there are those who actually celebrate it. We emotionally, physically, and sexually abuse children. We rape and kill. Rarely is any of this attributed to demonic activity. We talk about depression, mental illness, or personal choice. While these things are real, we should focus on putting on the armor of God against spiritual darkness. Evil forces want nothing more than to keep you from believing on Christ, and if you do believe to make you turn back or be as ineffective of a Christan as possible. As 1 Peter 5:8 warns, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." He wants you to be miserable, overwhelmed, and self doubting. He wants you to hold bitterness in your heart. Through the power of God you can overcome him. As James 4:8 teaches, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

On a positive note, we see from this story that God can use anyone as a missionary. This man once possessed could now enter a town where Jesus himself was unwelcome and share the gospel with his kinsmen. Jesus can transform any life. When everything else has failed, the power of God can turn your life around for his glory. That doesn't mean you will have an easy life. I doubt the former demoniac had a rousing welcome home party restoring him to wealth and prosperity. He was likely treated with suspicion at least for a time. Nevertheless he gladly walked the road set before him by Christ.

First, then, here is what these children are to tell. It is to be a story of personal experience. "Go home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord has done for thee, and hath compassion on thee." Not what you have believed, but what you have felt; what you really know to be your own; not what great things you have read, but what great things the Lord has done for you; not alone what you have seen done in the great congregation, and how great sinners have turned to God, but what the Lord has done for you. And mark this: There is never a more interesting story than that which a man tells about himself.  - C.H. Spurgeon 

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