Thursday 16 June 2022

Luke 8 verses 26-39

This is a story many people find hard to believe or understand. It is a story about demons which we do not speak of, but for the people living in the days of Jesus, it was a very real issue.  They were certainly real to the man in the story (as they were to Mary Magdelene whom Jesus cleansed on another occasion) for they enrage the person and deprive the senses.

Jesus and The Apostles had just sailed up the Lake crossing to Gentile territory, hoping to have an easier time, and avoid the pressures they had faced to come to the place of the Geraseens.  This incident took place at Gerasa, a small town near the Sea of Galilee, where it was thought to be the place which was the home, and a  Jewish area.   This is the only visit recorded of Jesus visiting this area. It was a region of tombs and chambers, hewed into the cliffs which arose from the Lake.  A steep hill descended sharply to the edge of the waters.

Jesus appeared, and was approached by a naked man who had a possession of demons.  The man had seen better days, wore clothes and lived in a home, but was now living in tombs among dead people. His case was one of violent insanity and was too dangerous to live with, so had to live in those tombs. He was regarded as a public nuisance, and His fellowmen would not go near him, for they were fearful of his strength.  When he was bound with iron chains, he was so strong he pulled them apart. On seeing Jesus he rushed down to confront Jesus who took pity upon him.

Jesus asked the man his name, and was told it was ‘legion’  which was a Roman name for a regiment of six thousand soldiers, so signifying the man had a lot of demons.   Despite his fearsome nature, Jesus approached him and called out the demons, which were cast into a herd of pigs causing them to rush away over a precipice into a lake where they drowned.

The people from all around the area heard of the healing by Jesus and marveled at the cure, but they asked Jesus to leave as they were in the grip of fear.  Jesus left the town by boat, and the man wanted to leave with him, but Jesus told him to go and tell people what God had done for him.

The owner of the pigs was angry, and the people had more concern for the pigs than the man’s health, plus the fact their routine was disturbed  Jesus was in fact condemned for sending the demons into the pigs, but belief often comes from a visible demonstration.  If this happened to day a crowd of protesters would see it as another opportunity to cause mayhem.  

The story has focused on two men, Jesus and the man legion.  Jesus had disturbed the tranquility, so had to be pushed away.  Things have not changed over the years, people do not want his presence or influence over their lives, unless of course it was of some practical help, or to affect the way they live.

The Church often makes people aware of their way of life, and that makes them feel guilty which they don’t want to feel, so don’t want any interference, unless of course Jesus is needed for help if there is some suffering in their lives.

Think of how the leaders of the Church told congregations not to attend meetings of the evangelical preacher Franklin Graham because he believed marriage was only between a man and a woman, which the leaders of the Church! thought was hate speech. Leaders of the LGBT movement put so much pressure on the owners of the places where he was to speak, that they cancelled the use of the buildings. Or how bishops of the Church  when Billy Graham first came in the 1960s discouraged people to attend. Consequently he was so well liked he had to extend his stay by three weeks, as people flocked in the thousands to listen to him.

The man went to tell of the miraculous way of his recovery by Jesus, and there is a responsibility of all Christians to do the same when they have been helped by God. But be prepared not to be listened to.  I have told how my wife faced a health condition on one occasion, and within three days, after a lady in Birmingham had asked her fellow pastors to join in praying for her, she was healed, yet even some clergymen politely smiled benevolently at me when I attributed the healing to that praying

There are many people in this country (and others) who are possessed of evil spirits, as we read and hear daily news  reports where human beings are treated in the most callous way by other humans.  Consider the offence of murder, once such a rare crime that it was national news for months, whereas now it is so common a crime, that it sometimes merits just a small paragraph in a newspaper.

People cannot control themselves, they may not run naked and wild, but scenes in our inner cities seem pretty wild, especially when filled with alcohol, which leaves them beyond control.  The Bible states the world is under the influence of the evil one, and you only need to look at television to see how true that is.

Consider the number of young children, even just babies, beaten to death in one case where a child had 200 injuries from its mother, and boy- friend.  How could you explain that away, or people flying planes into a high building in new York.  Pure evil.

Society would dearly like to control you.  We have legislation for almost everything, parents being told how their children must be dressed to avoid upsetting other children, made to be taught explicit sexual activity, with the parents being refused permission to have their child excused.  If the government had its way lives would be strictly monitored.

The Bible states, if you follow the ways of the world, you may come to loathe yourselves as you will live your transgression and sins, as people are controlled by drugs, promiscuity , pornography and alcoholism. They know they are behaving wrongly, but are beyond self- control. Men can get to the moon, but can’t control the world

Jesus looked at that man and took pity, seeing what he could be,  Behind many a smile there is a graveyard of pain, anxiety and heartache.  He was not a hard case for Jesus to deal with, but it can be hard for people to concede they need Him.

People to-day, even Church attenders, think things are fine with Jesus until he wants them to change things. They would rather sit on the sidelines and cheer, but when He alters things they have got used to. He is going too far.

This man saw Jesus, and saw love and compassion in a way he had never found before. If those people who come to Church for infant baptism turned to Jesus as they have promised, and ran with the same urgency as they run to places of liquid refreshment after the service, what a difference it would make for Church attendance.

Jesus cured the man and can do the same for every man and woman.  Cases like this rarely occur, but here is plenty of cases where people are filled with devilish actions. Christians have to believe when Jesus died on the Cross He took away our past sins and evil was defeated.  Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  When the Holy Spirit enters peoples’ lives it effects change, they have a sense of respect, because they realize the undeserved love and grace of God.

The man healed by Jesus wanted to stay with Him, but Jesus refused and sent him home.  Sometimes when we get what we ask for it can be a mixed blessing.  Our duty is to be where Jesus has set us to be for Him. We may not see the need for what position in life is good for us, or see the need of submitting our wills to Christ. What we want to do may not always be the best for us, so we have to be careful of what we choose for. Jesus wanted the man to tell what God had done for him.

In evangelical Churches it is common for people to make public their testimonies of how they came to know Christ.  For some people it is a chance to be dramatic, but for a lot of people it is a gradual growing in grace, when the exact moment of full commitment is not noticed.  I do not condemn how people make a testimony, but I do feel more convinced by the more reserved manner, as for some people it  can be less sincere.

It reminds me of two people who marry. For some it is like a Damascus Road experience, they see a person of the opposite sex, and are immediately struck in love and  rush to marry, soon to find they were tired of each other and divorced.

. For other people they meet, even casually and like the person of the other sex; they start in friendly meetings and grow so deeply fond of each other, but could not tell when the exact moment was when they truly fell in love, as just opposed to attraction. They live together in true love for the rest of life.

Whichever way you commit oneself to follow Jesus, be confident God welcomes you and grants you salvation.

May God bless His Word to us and make us worthy to meet Jesus.

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