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God’s Word for You

Luke 8:27-29 The demon and the Lord

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

27 When Jesus stepped ashore, a certain man from the town met him who was possessed by demons. For a long time this man had worn no clothes nor lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down at his feet, shouting in a loud voice, “What would I do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”  29 For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man, which had seized him many times. Even though he was chained by the hands and shackled by the feet and kept under guard, he kept breaking his bonds and was driven by the demon into solitary places.

Matthew (who was there in person) tells us that there were, in fact, two violent men possessed by demons (Matthew 8:28), but Mark and Luke only describe the Lord’s conversation with one of them. The details given by Luke tell a long, sad, and frightening story. This man had been possessed by multiple demons (the word in verse 27 is plural). They made him do unnatural things, driving him out of his mind. He left his work, his home, and his family—there is a whole tale of heartbreak behind those facts. Did his family and friends miss him? Were they frightened of him? Did he hurt someone? Did his wife or his mother leave food for him? He was driven again and again to solitary “desert” places, and he lived now in the tombs. Recall that locals and explorers have discovered many natural caves in this area east of the Sea of Galilee where there are tombs in large, impressive cave networks.

Someone—several strong someones—had tried to bind him. The Greek text describes these bonds as halysis, “chains” (usually attached to the wrists) to keep him from harming anyone (Revelation 20:1), and pedais, “foot chains,” to keep him from moving away from the area. These are the sort of shackles that were used on King Zedekiah when he was taken captive to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:11). But our Gerasene man kept breaking his bonds. Luke uses something called a historical present tense here, meaning that even though this was in the past, Luke says, “But he keeps breaking the chains!” It’s the language of an excited, involved storyteller.

This had been going on for a long time—and now we have an idea of this man’s life. He was terrorized by the thing that inhabited his mind and afflicted his body. He had given up wearing clothes. He probably ate the same thing that the nearby pigs were rooting around for in the soft soil, which reminds us of the Prodigal Son who also wanted to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating (Luke 15:16). In fact, if we were to place this miraculous story into Jesus’ parable, between Luke 15:16 and 15:17, we would hardly blink an eye.

It was not the poor man, but the unclean and evil spirit in him that recognized Jesus. He said in Greek, “Ti emoi kai soi?” (Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί), “What to me and to you,” which is precisely what Jesus said to his mother Mary when she suggested that he get involved in the wedding at Cana (John 2:4). We don’t need to be aggressive about the order in which we take the words: “What do you and I have in common?” would be another way of taking the words in our context in the Gerasenes. The demon (or hoard of demons) inhabiting this man knew that Christ is all about heaven, and they were subject to nothing but punishment in hell.

And yet this demon didn’t run and hide from Jesus. None of the demons Jesus encountered tried to get away. They couldn’t. The freshly fallen Adam and Eve in their hastily sewn leaf-leotards tried to hide in the forest of the Garden, but God knew where they were. A demon, in the world of the unseen things, cannot hide at all from the majesty and omniscience of Christ. Instead, the demon ran toward Jesus, drawn by the power of the Creator (John 1:3), He is forced to identify the One standing before him, and he does it from his point of view, as a condemned demon: “Jesus, Son of the Most High God!”

Let’s pause and remember something. This possessed man aggressively attacked people in this area. His violence made it so that “no one could pass that way” (Matthew 8:28). Yet here he had to fall at the Maker’s feet and identify Jesus by name and by title. The devil and his demons are subject to God and must obey him. They also disobey (God is not the author of evil). But when confronted by him personally, they can do nothing but submit, and this is what will finally happen in eternity, when they are stripped of all power and authority forever.

The monstrosity was terrified that his moment of judgment and torture had come, but he also knew that this wouldn’t really take place until Judgment Day. Matthew, recalling the scene with his own memory, says that the man said more fully: “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29).

No, not before the appointed time. But more importantly, not before Jesus could rescue this man who was abandoned, even shunned, but the rest of the world, and even shunned by the people who loved him most, because they were afraid of him. Jesus came with healing, as Malachi foresaw, “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). He came to meet this man and reach out to him with his healing, to proclaim a greater healing—the forgiveness of his sins. The demon within was terrified; there was no rescue for it at all. But for this man, in the very clutches of Satan in the most hopeless of situations, there was hope, because there before him was Jesus.

Jesus wouldn’t let the demons proclaim anything about him. He usually commanded them to be quiet. He doesn’t need the testimony of demons. He loves you, though. He loves it when you testify about him. That’s why he’s given your faith to you. You were baptized to be forgiven, and he wants you to share your story—the account of God’s love for you—with the people you meet.

If you read ahead, this story is about to get kind of weird, but don’t let it confuse you or distract you. If the demons don’t get their theology right, that shouldn’t surprise us. Just be sure you’ve got this right inside your heart: Jesus loves you, and died to pay for your sins. He also rose, to prove that you and I will rise. Until then, we serve him. Amen.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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