First in a Two- Part Series of Sermons
June 22 and 23, 2019
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.
Dear Friends in Christ,
We end June with a two part sermon series – “Saints Rescued” and Saints With an Attitude.”
Three Tales of Rescue
Not too far away from here, on Hay Daze weekend – Story of Brandon and me and six grandchildren running out of gas on his speedboat, finding ourselves stranded, locating our oars, beginning to paddle, then getting rescued.
Not too far away from that lake, a story of danger far worse unfolded years ago. It’s a tale of a young lady who stumbled into a meth addiction. An vicious sort of an addiction which cost her several jobs, all kinds of opportunities, and a few teeth. It threatened to ruin her marriage, it harmed all kinds of people she loved, it seemed as though she were doomed. But one dark day, she was caught violating drug court rules, she was sentenced one more time to prison and treatment, and this time it happened. By the grace of God and with the help of all kinds of professionals who knew what they were doing and family who never stopped caring for her, she was rescued. At least so far, so good – she has returned home and will tell anybody who cares to listen how much God has done for her.
Not too far away from her is a story of distress even worse than living as captives to drugs and/or alcohol. It’s a story of a man who grew up in the Church, but these days he’s not so sure there even is a God. He was baptized, he was confirmed, but he hasn’t tasted his Lord’s Supper for years. On his good days, he believes in Jesus kind of, sort of, maybe, maybe not. On his dark days, he lives alone, he is afraid, bitterness has grown up and is ruling on his insides. He desperately one of more of his Christian friends to gently and humbly invite him back into the presence of God.
These three tales of rescue lead us into a study of our text for today, where Jesus meets up with dozens or maybe it was hundreds or maybe it was thousands of demons, and the Son of the Most High God comes out on top. Three lessons we would learn today, under the theme of “Saints Rescued”
Lesson #1 is that This man with multiple issues is the epitome of Gentiles in need of (rescue). When I say that this demon possessed Gerasene was the epitome of Gentiles in distress, I mean that he is a perfect example of how messed up life can and does get for each and every one of us, with no exceptions. The setting of today’s rescue story is outside of Galilee, which one scholar notes “could be a subtle indication of Jesus’ mission to pagans., since this was a non Jewish territory.
This man had multiple issues, which reminds me of marriages in trouble – it’s not very often one issue, but several. Issues often include finances or communication or addictions or stubbornness or selfishness or all of the above. This man with multiple issues reminds me of people with all kinds of health concerns – it’s not very often one concern, but several. Concerns often include heart disease or various forms of cancer or obesity or folks can’t see or they can’t hear or they can’t walk or they can’t swallow or you fill in the blank.
The man in our text for today had at least four issues.
Issue #1 is that He was (naked) Luke records that he was naked for a considerable period of time. He wasn’t in his right mind. No doubt he was embarrassing to his family, he was scary to the children, he was without manners or social graces. He reminds us of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, after they ate the forbidden fruit, they hid because they were naked. He reminds us of Job who cried out in the midst of losing everything that was near and dear, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leaven.”
Issue #2 is that He was (unclean). This man with an unclean spirit lived among the tombs, which, in harmony with the Old Testamnet, the Jews considered to be unclean. It is striking that this unclean spirit entered swine which were considered unclean and he lived in an unclean place. He reminds us of King David who cried out to God to create in him a clean heart. He reminds us of a leper in Matthew 8 who gets down on his knees and prays, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” He reminds us of the disciples in John 15, where Jesus promises, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” If issue #1 was that he was naked and issue #2 was that he was unclean, then
Issue #3 is that He was (doomed) Luke paints a picture of a man doomed to being seized by violence, doomed to a life of being bound up in chains, being guarded, often driven into the deserted places. Never would he enjoy the pleasures of marriage and family, never would he know the relief of the forgiveness of sins brought by priestly sacrifices, never would he know the peace and the joy given not by the world but only the one true God.
Issue #4 is that He was begging for (mercy) The demon himself pleads with Jesus not yet to begin the eternal torment that is the final destiny of the devil and his minions. One scholar remarks that the fact that Jesus gave permission for the demons to enter the swine shows that he takes no pleasure in prematurely torturing the demons. When Luke records that the swine rushed into the lake and were drowned, the literal word is that they were choked, which is the same word used in the parable of the sower, the thorns choke the seeds beginning to grow. Dr. Art Just concludes that the fate of the swine illustrates the fate of hearers of the Gospel who let worldly cares choke their faith.
The kingdom of God is like a man who is too timid in these days to ask God for the desires of his heart, he is too tired most days to pray, too busy to be a hearer of God’s Word, and too stubborn to confess his faults. His issues are multiple, and life these days is about as messed up as it can be.
Lesson #2 is that Jesus has what it takes to rescue (people in distress). The identity of Jesus is the main point in this section of Luke. In this text, the demons know what human observers do not yet understand. In Luke 4 a demon announced that Jesus was the holy one of God, and now in Luke 8 a demon shouts with a loud voice that Jesus is the most high Son of God. Two lessons we learn from this text are that Jesus has both the DNA and the desire to save our sorry souls.
First, Scriptures make it clear that Jesus has the (DNA) DNA is defined as the fundamental and distinctive characteristics present in every living organism. We confess this DNA in the Nicene Creed when we confess that he is the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, etc.
Second, Scriptures make it clear Jesus has the (Desire) We see this desire in today’s Old Testament reading, where God declares, “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me, I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am, to a nation that was not called by my name I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people…
The kingdom of God is like a man who some days is as messed up and distracted as he can be. At the same time he is apologetic and defensive, one minute he wants to fight and the next to give up, simultaneously he is sinner and saint. But at the end of the day, he rejoices that his Savior’s great desire is to show mercy, he rejoices that his Father’s business is all about forgiveness, he delights in the heavenly picture of angels rejoicing over even one sinner that repents.
Lesson #3 is that We see in this text two responses to Jesus the (Rescuer). Jesus taught it this way in the Sermon on the Mount, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Or to say it as we say in our TLH liturgy – he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned. We either receive the gifts of God or we don’t. We either receive by faith our Lord’s deliverance from the power of the devil or we say no thanks.
Response #1 in today’s text was Fear and Rejection. In last week’s Gospel responded to Jesus declaring that before Abram was I am by picking up stones and trying to kill him. In today’s Gospel the owners of the swine get really ticked off – keep in mind that Mark records there were 2000 of them – and the crowds which had gathered responded by pleading for Jesus to just leave them alone.
Response #2 was Confident (faith). Once this man was demon possessed, now he believed with all of his heart that Jesus was Lord. Once this man was naked and a menace to society, now he was clothed with a robe of righteousness. Once he was unclean, now the blood of Jesus had cleansed him from every one of his sins. Once he was doomed, now he was rescued. Once he begged for mercy, now mercy had arrived.
The kingdom of God is like a drowning man pulled to safety just in the nick of time. It’s like a recovering alcoholic ever so grateful a few friends cared enough about him to intervene. It’s about a large church in a small town full of folks asking good questions in these days. Questions like “Which of my neighbors needs me to listen carefully? Which of my family members needs me to speak truth in love? Which of my loved ones have drifted away from Christ and His Church? How can I put myself in a position where people want to hear from me all the great things God has done for me? How messed up would my life be if Jesus had not rescued me in the waters of Holy Baptism? In Jesus’ Name. Amen
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