Unfortunately, I’ve been afflicted with laryngitis for several days, so I wasn’t able to record this podcast.
That Wild and Crazy Guy
According to the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, what happened when Jesus led his band of apprentices to “the other side” of the Sea of Galilee?
The disciples were probably not surprised that Jesus was immediately confronted by a demon-afflicted man.
Traditionally he is known as the Gerasene or Gadarene demoniac. When Jesus asks his name, he identifies himself as Legion.
How did he get into this condition? We aren’t told. What does it mean that his name is Legion? A Roman legion was a unit of heavy infantry that numbered somewhere between 4,000-5,000 soldiers. Luke tells us he is “legion…because many demons had gone into him.”
Here is where people who live in the 21st century run smack into Hollywood Hogwash, especially as Halloween approaches every year.
According to the entertainment industry, the spirit world is alive and well. But human beings are little more than helpless pawns. Movies about spiritual darkness tend to have ambiguous theology, no ultimate resolution, and feature really scary things happening to Jamie Lee Curtis.
But the “showdown” between Jesus and Legion is over from minute one. The afflicted man immediately falls down and begs Jesus for mercy.
The demons’ motivation has been to destroy this man – to keep him as far away as possible from the love and grace of God. But the Bible unflinchingly asserts that Jesus is master of the seen and unseen worlds. The demons are powerless in his presence.
It seems clear that the demons at the very least want to disrupt Jesus’ ministry. They ask permission to be sent into a large herd of pigs feeding on a nearby hillside. The gospel of Mark tells us there were 2,000 of them. The demonized pigs promptly rush down the hillside and into the lake.
The shocking thing is that they all drown. Pigs are excellent swimmers. They are the Michael Phelps of barnyard animals.
But the demons want to create havoc. By drowning the pigs, they cause an economic disaster for the people in this region. These pigs represented the 401(k) of multiple herders. They were the “piggy bank” of a lot of people who didn’t yet know God. The upshot is that these people now associate Jesus not with good news but with a major financial setback.
According to this fascinating text, we can experience the transforming touch of Jesus in two ways.
First, Jesus is willing and able to do what no one else can do: He can unchain our hearts, release us from bondage, and send us into a whole new life, just as he did for this one shattered man.
Second, Jesus invites us to join him in this ministry of transforming others. We may be called to journey “to the other side” with him, just as he did with the disciples.
Or we may be called to stay right where we are and make a difference in our present context, which was his ultimate intent for the Gerasene demoniac.
Either way, we become agents of God’s reign. We may not have the power of Jesus, but we bear his authority – authority to help bring healing to a broken world.
It’s just possible that the saddest verse in the Bible is Luke 8:37: “Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.”
Do you realize how much power you have? You have the power to make the Son of God go away.
All you have to do is ask.
Or you can do just the opposite. Like the demon-haunted man in this story, you can respond to Jesus’ transforming touch by choosing to embrace a whole new way of life.