Luke 8:26-39 “Crazy, Man”
In the Tuesday morning bible study group, when talking about how it was that Jesus allowed the legion of demons to leave the man and enter the herd of swine, one in the group commented that this was the original “deviled ham.” We all laughed at this.
I like to start with a joke, but the subject of this sermon is really no joking matter. We will be discussing demons. In discussing demons, we must realize an inherent danger. Demons love it when you are frightened and scared of them. When we talk about demons, we must constantly remind ourselves that the name of Jesus is more powerful than any demon. Demons would like it if we were frightened of them, but as our scripture points out, the opposite is true. Demons are most cowardly and are utterly afraid of Jesus and God. Anyone who believes in God has nothing to fear from a demon!
We have to say that demons exist if for no other reason than they are mentioned in the Bible. Our scripture for this morning tells us that Christ cast out demons when he arrived at Gerasa—on the Greek-speaking side of the Sea of Galilee. Most importantly from our text this morning, we must also believe that Jesus has the power to cast out demons in this world. So, yes, there are demons, but they have no power over us if we believe in Jesus and in the power of his name.
What exactly is a demon anyway, then? I can tell you first what it is NOT! It is not a psychological disorder such as a bipolar syndrome. Demons are not our psychological weaknesses. I have heard a good many modern preachers try wrongly to make that connection.
Again, looking at our scripture, we see that the demons are able to talk directly with Jesus and seem to have their own individual identities. They even seem to form groups inside of a person; hence, the demons call themselves “Legion.” This is very different than the psychological manifestation of multiple personalities.
I like to think of a demon as a squatter. One morning you wake up and see a guy sitting out on your front lawn. You have no idea who he is or what he is doing there. You can see that he has hunkered down and has indeed already spent the night there without your knowing it. He is using your faucet to get water. He is digging up the vegetables out of your yard to eat. He comes in your front door, looks around, gets a cup of coffee from the coffeemaker, sits down and starts using your phone to call all of his buddies. He flips on the television and starts watching the Netflix with his feet up on your fine furniture. The whole time you are standing there aghast, not knowing what is going on or what you should say about it. Then, you realize that he was calling all of his buddies to come over and really take over since the house seemed to be open for this new tenant.
Yes, a demon is an unwelcome spiritual presence coming into our lives. That is not to say that there are not spiritual presences that ARE welcome. We know from the story of Abraham and Sarah that three visitors, three angels, came to Abraham, and he treated them as honored guests. They blessed his life with announcing that Sarah was going to have a son. A demon leaves anger and hate, frustration and despair.
We also believe in angels that come down and can anoint our lives as Isaiah experienced and of course the blessed mother of Jesus, too. We know that there can be angels or good spirits protecting our own lives. It is so wonderful when you realize that indeed a welcome spirit has entered your life. Even Jesus when he was baptized had the Holy Spirit itself descend upon him. This is the very wonder of the Pentecost when thousands of people received the Holy Spirit all at once in the same place.
1 John 4:1-6 tells us: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this know the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And, this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
Maybe that is the best way to look at what a demon really is. It is a spirit that flunks the test of God. It is a spirit of error rather than truth. It is a spirit that is frightened of goodness, godliness, truth, and righteousness. It is a spirit that can come into our lives and take over to our own detriment.
Now, I want to go back to the story that was read from the Bible this morning of the Gerasene Demoniac. He is a man who has obviously let in one demon somehow and then all of the rest have jumped in thereafter. Indeed, this has been a tremendous detriment to his life as he can no longer even conduct himself in a civil manner. He is shackled like a wild animal and left in the graveyard. Apparently often times he is able to break his chains and that is how it is presumed that he is now on the seashore when Jesus arrives. The man falls down before Jesus and yells out as loud as he can for Jesus to leave him alone. WE all must see that it was not Jesus who was afraid. It was not Jesus who sought out the man. All of this is just opposite as one might think. The demon-possessed man was afraid of Jesus and wanted Jesus to leave him alone, yet came to him.
The scripture from 1 John 4 that I read tells us to test the spirits that we encounter. Well, this is a pretty sure test to see if a spirit is good or evil. If someone comes up to you, knowing that you are a Christian of good faith and true heart, and tells you “to mind your own business” or “leave me alone” then the demons in that person are obviously afraid of Jesus. They flunk the test right off. So, when you try as a Christian to help someone to achieve repentance and acceptance of Christ in his or her life and you get back a forceful “stay away from me,” you know then that you must be dealing with an unwelcome spirit. That is when you must really call on the power of prayer and the name of Christ to cleanse that person. They themselves will not want to be cleansed, yet they will tend to approach you!
Why do demons approach Jesus, or the body of Christ that is the church today? In our bible text for today, the demons ask Jesus not to send them back to hell. That is very telling! They would rather live inside of filthy swine than go back to where they have come from. Most of us like to go home. We look forward to be home with God in heaven one day. These demons most assuredly have no desire to go back from whence they came. How bad is hell? Even the demons do not want to go back to Satan.
In our story of the Gerasene Demoniac we also read that the demons inside the man were not just frightened of Jesus, but they were also frightened of going back to “the abyss.” The thought of Hell also frightens a demon. Think again of the idea of the squatter that does not want to go home!
Amazingly, we see that Jesus shows mercy to the demons and allows them to go into the swine before they jump into the lake and drown. Jesus is simply too good, too godly, too much the Son of God, to be the cause of their destruction. The Bible is clear that the swine rushed into the lake and drowned. We do not read that Jesus commanded the swine to run into the lake. The swine destroyed themselves. The demons destroyed themselves—Christ did not do it. He did not send them into the abyss as they feared, but they sent themselves there. Therefore, a valid way to test a spirit as to whether it is good or bad is to test if it is self-destructive.
Luke does not say that this man of Gerasa was self-destructive; however, the parallel text in Mark 5:5 says that the man would take stones and hit himself with them. So, we know that he was indeed self-destructive. He was a harm to himself as well as others. So, I cannot really fault the people of Gerasa with having him chained up in the tombs with a guard. That was strangely enlightened for the time in fact. He was fed, watched, sheltered in the tombs, and kept from harming himself!
The next part of our scripture for this morning is truly fascinating. All the people around the area of Gerasa came to where Jesus was and seeing the demoniac healed, were seized with fear, and asked Jesus to leave. Sooooo, the one guy in shackles was not the only one who had a few demons! The others that came were equally fearful of Jesus. And remember, they came to him! Jesus did not have to go out to them. Jesus then does something that seemingly surprises us today. Jesus backed down. He went away. He got back in the boat and left. We can read this in verse 37 of today’s scripture: “Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got in the boat and returned.”
What if Jesus landed his boat here in Waimea, healed one man by casting out his demons, then everybody else forced him to get back onto his boat and return without ever really starting his ministry here? What if the one person he healed was you? Would you not want to get on that boat with Jesus and sail off with him? That is exactly what the man who was healed in Gerasa wanted to do. But, Jesus told him to do something else: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus has done for him.”
We are all just like the Gerasene Demoniac. We have had our lives healed. Others around us may still be afraid of Jesus because of the demons they carry within them. Others may wish to drive Jesus from our shores. We are the ones left behind to proclaim the Christ and his power over evil.
Here is an interesting thing to close with. In your Bibles, you can see that in Luke, Chapter 9, is when Jesus first commissions his Twelve Disciples to go out and heal in his name, casting out demons; however, the Gerasene Demonic is really the first apostle sent out to spread the Good News of Christ. He is the first apostle in the Bible!
We know that this man was successful in bringing the Good News of Christ’s healing to the Greek people in the North. There were believers who accepted the faith in Christ. We know this today because of the story of Saul, that is Saint Paul, that is sent to this exact same area in order to persecute the believers in Christ. We read this in Acts 9:1 and on. St Paul is then converted by Jesus himself along the road to Damascus. A Christian by the name of Ananias then heals him of blindness. Another Christian, Barnabas, then brings him back to Jerusalem to accept the ministry of Jesus over his life.
The story of the Gerasene Demoniac is a set up for the story of Saint Paul for sure. Also the story of Saint Paul raises the final question for this morning. Maybe like Saul of Tarsus going off to Damascus to persecute Christians we have grown to like our demons. Maybe we have grown so comfortable with out own demons that we too do not know how to approach Christ.
Right now the demons of violence and hatred are ripping our country apart. It seems that every day we hear of another mass shooting. Everyone scratches their heads and wonder what we can do.
At a conference wide zoom meeting on Wednesday I openly stated that this is a failure of our churches. If everyone felt affirmed in the love of Jesus in his or her life, they would not be picking up guns to shoot others. John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center recently noted this fact in an Op Ed. He researched 70 recent mass shootings and discovered only four shooters had had any church affiliation at all. In fact a majority of the shooters claimed to be anti-Christian.
So, you want to know the answer to mass shootings in the United States. You are sitting in it right now. We have the power in the name of Christ to cast out that legion of demons in our midst.