Jesus is the Son of Man
Demon Possessed Man
All right, lets go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 8. IF you do not have a Bible or you know someone who needs one, please see me after the service and we can get one into your hands as our gift to you.
It is interesting to me, when we read through the Bible, there are parts that are more difficult to believe, more difficult to imagine, and like this week, more difficult to explain. Most of the time, what sections these are for each of us depends on our spiritual background, what church or religion we grew up in. It also depends on where we were born. For example, the story we will look at today, will be harder for those of us born in Western society to come to grips with than those who were not.
In the Western world, I see two main things that define the way we look at scriptures. Both will be address in this passage. First is that we tend to go to one of two extremes when it comes to Satan, demons and the spirit world.
According to C.S. Lewis, There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist and magician with the same delight.
The first extreme is that we give them not enough power. We dismiss demons, we dismiss Satan as if he doesn’t exist, he isn’t real. One of the greatest quotes, this is by an old poet and I was unable to find his name again so forgive me, but in one of his poems, he said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.” Scripture shows us that Demons, Satan, angels are real, they are real, they were real then, and they are real now. They also have power. They can influence people and things of this world.
The other extreme is that we give them too much power. Anything and everything that happens is because to the devil. We end up putting him almost on par with God. We think of them as two sides to the same coin. That God is the good God and Satan is the evil God. But again, going to what the scriptures say, Satan is not even close to the same level as God. He is a created being, falling under the authority of God, the creator. He will be defeated, and Jesus won’t break a sweat doing it.
The second thing that we tend to do in Western society when reading the scriptures is to make them about us. They are not. First and foremost, the scriptures are about Jesus, his power, his authority, his love for us, his death for us, his manhood and his godhood. Now, often there are secondary features of the stories in scriptures that we can apply to ourselves and our lives. But the most important thing to remember is that we and any application to our lives is secondary.
Before we get to this story, lets catch up with where we are coming from. Jesus has spent the whole day preaching and teaching and was naturally exhausted. He told the disciples that they were going across the lake instead of finding some place to sleep. During the boat ride, Jesus did sleep, at least until a huge storm came out of nowhere. The disciples woke Jesus up and he told the storm, literally, Be muzzled, and the wind and the waves were instantly calm. The disciples were afraid and asked, “Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey his commands?”
So, we will go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke chapter 8, verses 26 through 39. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along and read in your preferred translation. Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit records this passage:
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes,[c] which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus[d] 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. 28 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.” 29 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.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 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. 33 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.
34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 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. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed[e] man had been healed. 37 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. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “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.
May God Bless the Reading of his Word.
SO, I struggled with that while preparing this sermon this week. This story is easy to repeat, easy to recount. The story itself is pretty straightforward. But I’m not the only one who struggles with this passage. RC Sproul, in his commentary of Marks Gospel on this same passage, says this: “I cannot help but ask a speculative question: Why did the Holy Spirit choose to inspire the Gospel records of this event? In other words, what value is there in this text for us?”
We are going to try to answer that question this morning.
So, Jesus finishes up an exhausting day of preaching and teaching, sleeps for a little bit on the boat, the disciples wonder about him and fear him, but he gets to the other side of the sea and steps of the boat and is instantly confronted with this man.
Essentially, Jesus, a Jew, walks into, possibly, the most unclean situation possible. This man was demon possessed, he had unclean spirits inside of him. He was a wild man. The people had tried to contain him, but he had unnatural strength. He was breaking the chains and shackles that the town had tried to use to control him. He was aggressive and when he was exiled to the tombs, he would take that aggression out on himself; self-mutilating himself with rocks and stones. In a word, the man was chaotic. He was also helpless and hopeless.
The people of the surrounding area couldn’t control him or tame him, so they exiled him to the tombs, which added another layer of uncleanness. The Israelites were not allowed to touch dead bodies, based on God’s commandments. In an effort to not even get close to that and to be even more Holy, or more safe from the accidents or temptations, their tradition was if you touched anything related to death, be it coffins, tombs, etc. that meant you were unclean. This man was living in the tombs.
This man was also a gentile, not a Jew. He was unclean from birth. He did not know the true God, even before the demons got a hold of him. And yet, he saw Jesus from far away and knew instantly who he was. He ran up to him and fell down before him. How did he know?
He knew because of the unclean spirit inside of him. The spirit knew exactly who Jesus was, the Son of the most High God. See, demons, fallen angels, whatever you call them, they know the scriptures. Their theology is solid. Angels, demons and Satan know the scriptures from Genesis through Revelations. They know that God is God and Jesus is the Son of God. They know they can’t win.
They fight and they try to destroy as much of Gods kingdom as possible, but they know how things will turn out and they show that here. Jesus tells the spirit to come out of the man, and the spirits throw the man on the ground, and start begging for mercy.
Why would you beg someone for mercy? Because they had the power and the opportunity to do something to you that you don’t want done. The power and opportunity to destroy you. That’s what the unclean spirit is doing here.
It knows that Jesus has ultimate authority over him/it/whatever. It knows that Jesus can order it out of the man, and it has no choice but to obey. He thinks Jesus is coming for it and he begs that Jesus not to torment of them. Jesus then asks the name of the spirit. The response is “My name is Legion, for we are many.” As I was looking at this this week, I found that a Roman Legion can be anywhere from 3000 to 5600 to 6000 troops depending on what commentator and historian you ask. Ultimately it means, “A lot.”
This man has a lot of demons inside of him. He was out of control. He was hopeless and he was chaotic. The demons knew they were not long for this body, but they also knew that it was not time for the final judgment, the final battle, the moment when their ultimate defeat would occur. So, they asked Jesus for something. Since it was not the time for their destruction, but they had to leave that body, how about sending them into that heard of pigs over there?
Now the herd of pigs is another unclean aspect of this story. As you likely know, the pig is one of the unclean animals that God command the Jews not to eat, to touch or to have anything to do with. One of the things this is showing is that this further shows that we are not in Jewish territory anymore. We are in Gentile territory. And this man and these demons recognize who Jesus is. And they would rather be sent into a herd of pigs than to deal with anything else Jesus could do to them.
Now Jesus does a couple of things here. Number 1, he once again demonstrates his authority over the spirit world. He gives Legion permission to go into the pigs. The 2000 pigs then run over the cliff and drown themselves in the Sea of Galilee. They couldn’t do this without Jesus’ permission. If he had said no, they wouldn’t be able to do this.
Jesus is also showing the proper order of dominion. He is showing how important each and every one of us are to him. Jesus put people above animals. The soul, the body, the well-being of this possessed man meant far more in the kingdom of God than the herd of pigs. It was more loving, more merciful and more just to send the unclean spirits into the pigs and have the pigs drown than to allow this unclean gentile to continue to suffer. His redemption was more important than animals. Every human soul matters. Every human soul is created in the image of God and deserves to be thought of and treated as such.
Now the death of these two thousand pigs had some repercussions. The men that were in charge of these pigs ran off and told everyone what happened. Crowds came from the country and the city to see what happened for themselves. And what do they see? Notice that it doesn’t say anything about the sight of 2000 dead pigs floating in the sea. It doesn’t say anything about the money that the dead pigs cost their owners. It doesn’t say anything about the effect on the water supply that 2000 dead pigs would have.
No, what it says is that they saw was this man, if they even still considered him a man. This man who was running wild. This man who was terrorizing everybody he would see. This man that was breaking chains and shackles and beating himself with stones. They saw this man calm. The saw him dressed. They saw him sane. And it terrified them.
Showing you how bad this man had been, the sight of him in this new, calm, sane state was way more shocking than the sight of 2000 dead pigs floating in the see. This scared them more than any emotion or reaction about the dead pigs.
Jesus’ power is scary. This is second story in a row that the scriptures show us this. Last week, the disciples saw Jesus calm the wind and the waves and they were frightened. They were afraid because of the power of Jesus. The demons, Legion were afraid of Jesus power and would rather be sent off into a herd of pigs that end up drowning than face the wrath of Jesus. Now here, this community, this town or whatever. They see that Jesus has transformed this man from the out of control, chaotic, wild, demon possessed man into this calm, well dressed rational man. And they were afraid.
I said this last week, but I think it bears repeating. The word here for fear is not the same word used in situations like Proverbs 9:10 or Psalm 111:10, which both say, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;” That word is along the lines of awe or reverence. No, the word here for afraid, means afraid or fear, or frightened. These men were scared of the power of Jesus. His power is scary. We are going to come back to that in a moment.
But first I want to finish this story. The people of this area were so scared they told Jesus to get back in the boat and go back across the sea. The man that Jesus had rescued, saved, changed, whatever word you want to use, the man ran up to Jesus and wanted to go with him. He wanted to learn from him, serve him, travel with him and be one of his followers and disciples. Now, what would be better than being a new believer and having Jesus standing right there… A chance to learn from the man that just transformed your soul. A chance to follow him and serve him. What would be better, more noble, wiser than that?
Jesus said No. Instead, what he said to the man was this, ““Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Jesus once again shows us that no matter how great our plans seem to be, no matter the motivations behind our plans to worship and serve the LORD, if that’s not what God has for us to do, it is wrong for us to do it. The same thing happened to Peter as well. At the transfiguration, Peter, James and John were with Jesus, and in addition to seeing the transfiguration, they also saw Moses and Elijah. In Matthew 17. Peter has an idea and says: And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” We don’t see any rebuke here or even Jesus’ answer, but we know that it’s a no. There are other plans that God has for the besides hanging out with the Messiah and the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament.
Jesus has better plans for us than anything that we could come up. The problem is that his plans can be scary. They can be hard. What would have been easier for this man to do. Get in the boat with Jesus, follow him like the rest of the disciples, or to stay where he was, to go back home to his family for the first time in who knows how long? The go and be able to have simple conversations with people he growled at and chased away, let alone telling that what the LORD did for him. To live day after day, knowing what he did to these people, terrorizing them and knowing that many of them didn’t trust that he had truly changed. Jesus’s way is the harder way. Matthew 7:13 & 14 read “13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Jesus’ way is hard, and it can be scary. His power is amazing. We see the stories here, written on paper, but they were real events, happening to real people, real miracles. Jesus, while he was here on earth, voluntarily limited the power that he accessed. He was still God, and he was able to do anything, but he limited himself to what God the Father sent him to do. And even with that, look at his power, that scared these people.
Do you get scared when you see God’s power? I know what most people will say. Not all, but most will say, “I’ve never seen God’s power work in that way.” I say that you have. If you are a child of God, you have seen it. Jesus transformed the man in this story from a demon possessed, ravaged man and he transformed him into a man who could reflect the image and glory of God, who could go out and show his friends, his family and those around him the mercy that God showed on him.
That is the power that scared these people. That is the power that he exhibited in you. You may not have had legion in you. But you and I were in the same spiritual and eternal condition that this man was, before Jesus transformed him. You have seen that power take place inside of you. And if you have seen that power, Jesus says to testify to that power. God is calling you to do something difficult. It will be accomplished with the power of Jesus, not through us. It will not be done in our comfort zone. It will be scary. It will be what God has called us to do.
If you have not witnessed that power of Jesus in your own life, in your own heart. You have the opportunity to see it. My guess, and that’s all it is, a guess, is that you are not filled with legion. But, as I said, you are in the same eternal condition as this man was. Jesus can change that. But it’s going to be scary and fulfilling and rewarding and incredible. It will not be like you see on TV, where you become a Christian and everything bad in your life goes away and things all fall into place and life is good. No, it will be hard. There will be spiritual warfare going on all around you. It’s not going to be “safe.”
CS Lewis addressed this in his book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan is the Christ character type in the book and one of the kids is going to be taken to him. The kid asks if Aslan, a lion, is safe. This is the response. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Jesus limited his own power as he was here on earth, now that he is ascended back into heaven, he has unlimited access to that power. If it was that scary then, how scary powerful is he know? If he is that powerful and that good, which side do you want to be on? The time to pick sides is now. It won’t be easy, but it will be right. It won’t be safe, but it will be good. Take this opportunity to see God’s power work in you for the first time, securing you eternal security. Take this opportunity to remind yourself of when God’s power worked in you, changing you what you were, to who you are now. And then listen to what God is telling you to do. And do it. He has you in his hands. Even if it’s scary and hard and dangerous, you are in his hands. If you are in his hands, you will be there for all eternity. He is not safe, but he is good.
I don’t know what specifically God has planned for you here and now in this life. I know that if you are Gods, I know what he has for you eternally, but I don’t know his specific plans for your life here and now. I do know that it will be scarry. It will push your boundaries. It will pull you out of your comfort zone. And it will be worth it.
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