There was a little old lady who would come out every morning on the steps of her front porch, raise her arms to the sky and shout, “Praise the Lord!”. One day an atheist moved into the house next door. Over time he became irritated at the little old lady. Every morning he would step out onto his front porch and yell after her, “There is no Lord”.
Time passed, and the two of them carried on that way every day. One morning in the middle of winter, the little old lady stepped onto her front porch and shouted, “Praise the Lord! Lord, I have no food and I am starving. Please provide for me, oh Lord!”
The next morning, she stepped out onto her porch and there were two huge bags of groceries sitting there. “Praise the Lord!” she cried out. “He has provided groceries for me!” The atheist jumped out of the hedges and shouted, “There is no Lord. I bought those groceries!”
The little old lady threw her arms into the air and shouted, “Praise the Lord! He has provided me with groceries, and He made the devil pay for them!!
A few years ago, there was a television show called “Extreme Makeover Home Edition”. It was a show where a construction crew comes into a home and does a complete renovation, usually for a low-income family or a family that has seen other hardships. There is nothing new about extreme makeovers. In fact, Jesus performed many extreme makeovers in the Bible. We heard one such makeover in Luke 8:26-39.
When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man, he was no longer shameless. He was clothed. He had a sense of what was decent and proper. In other words, he had morals. The man was in his right mind. He saw the world as it was…a world with both enemies and friends. It doesn’t matter what they are or how severe they are. Jesus has the power to overcome our demons.
The story of Jesus and the demon-possessed man is an example of spiritual warfare. Jesus declared war on Satan and his demons. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about demons, but it tells us enough. They are real and they deal in fear and deception. They are opposed to God and everything he does. We do not have to fear demons because we have faith in God’s power.
All of us have our own inner demons, but they usually are not as severe as those who controlled the man. Our demons include possessiveness, hoarding things, extreme individualism, self-centeredness, racial prejudice, homophobia or exclusiveness. They could be spiritual questions, family secrets, health issues or anything else. They exist in the minds of perverts, rapists, murderers, child molesters, other criminals and anyone who thinks, does or speaks evil. To be possessed is culturally acceptable, and to be demon-free goes against our culture. That is scary because it goes against the status quo.
When demons control us, we are not ourselves because we are not in control. In contrast, sin is what we do because we are in control of our lives. The freedom demons offer is a false freedom because it dehumanizes and isolates its victims. Just look at how the demon-possessed man was treated. He was isolated from the community by having to live in the cemetery. He was isolated when the townspeople tried to confine him in chains.
Who are the people in our society that we try to restrain in various forms of chains? Are they people like the mentally ill or clients of sheltered workshops? What places does Jesus take us to that scare us? Are we scared of people who are different from us because of race, colour, creed or other petty reasons? Jesus forces us to confront our demons. How do we react when that happens? Do we react like the demon-possessed man did when he was healed, or do we react like the townspeople did?
This story reveals the emphasis that Luke’s Gospel places on salvation. It shows the depth of human suffering into which God’s salvation can reach. Jesus seeks out the oppressed, understands their plight, redirects their rage and reincorporates them into the community. Jesus’ power is greater than all the forces in the world. Jesus never went out looking for demons, but when he found them he dealt with them immediately and severely. We do not have to go looking for demons. We need to keep our eyes fixed on God.
The demons knew what their fate was supposed to be. They knew that they were supposed to enter the abyss, which was known as the place where God confines demons. They pleaded with Jesus to go into the pigs instead. Since pigs were unclean animals in the eyes of the Jews, it was logical that unclean spirits sought out unclean things. Even though the demons thought that they had won when Jesus agreed to their request, in reality they lost because the pigs entered a natural abyss when they fell off of the cliff.
So how do we deal with evil. There are four steps:
- We must expect struggles with evil. Satan has been defeated by Christ, but he will never give up. He will keep fighting.
- We must actively live out our faith. Satan’s cronies tremble before God’s awesome power.
- We must resist evil with the power of the Holy Spirit. We do this by going to the Lord in prayer for everything.
- We must remember that as believers in Jesus we are on the winning side. We will be injured, and we will suffer from time to time, but we will be free from spiritual bondage.
Jesus acted as a friend to the demon-possessed man. He asked the demons hard questions and expected mature responses. The demons knew that Jesus would radically change their lives, and they were not ambivalent when it came to radical change. When we encounter Jesus, we can expect radical changes in our lives. We won’t be the same. Either our hatred of Jesus will grow, or we will draw closer to him in faith. The demon-possessed man received a new identity when Jesus answered his problems. The demon-possessed man sat at the feet of Jesus, which meant that he was now under the authority of Jesus. He chose to act responsibly. The man became free when he submitted to Jesus’ authority.
The demon-possessed man was so grateful for his healing that he wanted to join Jesus and the disciples. Instead, Jesus told him to stay home, minister and witness to the people. In a sense, the man did join the group. He became a disciple. We are also disciples when we follow Jesus by faith by ministering and witnessing wherever we are. Sometimes we will be called to a different calling than the one we would have chosen, but it is important to listen carefully and obey the call to which we have been called. It is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to be a prince or princess anywhere else-unless God has called us to be a prince or princess.
There was a cost to the healing. The cost was the loss of the townspeople’s livelihood when the pigs died. The pigs were expensive property. They were sold to the Roman occupiers for food. The people did not care that the demon-possessed man was healed. They were only concerned with their livelihood. In other words, they were more concerned with material things than they were with spiritual things. They knew what to do when the man was sick, but now that he was healed they didn’t know what to do. They could have rejoiced with the man, but to do that they would have to have been healthier themselves. They were sick and could not deal with the healed person in their midst, so their natural response was to reject this new element that had come into their lives, just like a body sometimes rejects a transplanted organ.
Christianity preaches a message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. There is no violence in that message, so why do so many of the other religions in the world persecute Christians? It is because they recognize that Jesus can do things for the people that they can’t. Jesus paid for our sin debt on the cross. No other religion can offer that. In other words, people of other religions are jealous of Christians-plain and simple!
Now that the man was healed, the townspeople would have to find room for him in the village. Will his family welcome him home? Has his wife remarried? Have his children made peace with his absence? How will he make a living? Will he become dangerous again? Will one of their daughters fall in love with him? Jesus solved one problem but created the potential for more problems. It’s no wonder that the townspeople asked Jesus to leave.
When we have been freed by Jesus, we are free to follow his version of the Ten Commandments:
- Be yourself. We can be aware that we are integral parts of God’s creation.
- Love the world by loving your neighbour. We are all neighbours and we have a neighbourly connection to every other human being on earth, including those who suffer from mental illness.
- Learn from everyone. We are all equal in God’s eyes. We may have different gifts and talents, but we are specially gifted by God’s spirit.
- Love always and in every circumstance.
- Be merciful, just like Jesus showed mercy to the demon-possessed man.
- Live surround sound. There is never just one voice that we hear when we listen to God speak to us. We can’t hear his voice without hearing the voice of Scripture and being open to receive the voice of the Spirit. There is never just one side to a story. It takes all four gospels to tell the story of Jesus.
- Learn a living. Everyone we meet has something to teach us. The demon-possessed man taught us how we should respond to God’s grace in our lives. The townspeople taught us how not to respond to God’s grace.
- Truth is black and green. It is black in the words of Scripture, and it is green in the relationship between creation or nature and the Creator.
- Trust the Spirit: the power of force is farce. In Jesus the ultimate expressions of power and powerlessness came together.
- Show Courage. The courage Jesus showed was not just the courage of resistance. It was the courage of endurance. There will be some of us who may be called upon to show the courage of resistance, taking definitive, costly action, in order to stand up for justice, mercy, truth, and love. But every single one of us will find it necessary to offer the courage of endurance throughout our lives. The easiest way for evil to win is not through bombs or bullets, but through the slow erosion of commitment and courage to stand against the current.
- Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2012)
- Alexander Wales, “The Demons Within”. Retrieved from http://www.esermons.com
- Lawson, B., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983)
- The NKJV Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2007)
- Barry, J.D.; Grigoni, M.R.; Heisler, M.S.; Custis, M.; Mangum, D.; & Whitehead, M.M.; Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software; 2012)
- David R. Cartwright, “What Happens When You Are Not Prepared for What Happens”. Retrieved from http://www.esermons.com
- Arley K. Fadness, “Liberating the Possessed”. Retrieved from http://www.esermons.com
- Leonard Sweet, “Jesus’ Ten Commandments”. Retrieved from ww.esermons.com
- Exegesis for Luke 8:26-39. Retrieved from http://www.sermonwriter.com
- Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, “A Man’s Declaration”. Retrieved from http://www.lhm.org
- Lectionary Homiletics, Vol. XXIV, #4 (St. Paul, MN: Luther Seminary; 2013)
- Proper 7-Year C. Retrieved from http://www.preachingtip.com/archive
- “An Extreme Makeover”. Retrieved from http://sermonsforkids.com