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JESUS HEALS A DEMON-POSSESSED MAN

Luke 8:26-8:39
Key Verse: 8:30

Storms of life are hard for anyone to bear. But last week, we learned that the storm itself is not the problem. Faith in Jesus is what matters. That’s why Jesus, after calming the storm, asked his disciples, “Where is your faith?” Faith in Jesus is the solution and the victory over any life situation. In today’s passage Jesus heals a demon-possessed man. Modern people think that they have nothing to do with demon-possession, especially in this highly educated and technologically advanced era. Many think that demon-possession is an ancient thing, something related only to the unschooled and unscientific world. Yet, demon-possession is a fundamental problem of mankind in both time past and present. In today’s passage we will think about it and more importantly think of Jesus who heals a demon-possessed man.

First, a demon-possessed man (26-29). In verse 26, Jesus and his disciples sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. This region was one of the ten towns of the Decapolis, located on the east side of the Jordan. At one time, Greek immigrants had colonized this area. And the 14th Roman Legion occupied this territory in the name of the Roman Emperor. The country of the Gerasenes was only about 10 km away across the Sea of Galilee. As we studied in the last lesson, Jesus and his disciples left the east side of the lake in the evening and were supposed to get here probably late evening on that day. But because of the unexpected storm their arrival was delayed. So now it was in the middle of the night or in the early hours of the morning. It was the time when they were most tired and sleepy. Then what happened? Look at verse 27a. “When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town.” They met another kind of storm. Everyone wants to be met by nice people. Nobody wants to be met by eerie and nasty people. But Jesus and his disciples were met by a demon-possessed man. The eagerness and expectation of vacation must have completely vanished from the disciples.

How was the demon-possessed man described? Look at verse 27b. “For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.” And in verse 29b, “Many times it (the evil spirit) had seized him, and though he was chained hand and feet and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.” These words tell us that the man could not live a normal social life in his community. In Mark’s gospel, it is written about this demon-possessed man, “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (5:5). According to Mark, this man was restless, and torturing and destroying himself. As for Luke, he particularly wrote that this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house. Wearing clothes is an important part in social life. Nowadays many young people seem to wear their clothes freely and conveniently, not thinking much about others or their community. Some wear worn outclothes, though they are not poor at all, and others wear provocative clothing. This can be a trend of the world. But, how one dresses should be about more than one’s own interest, and also include concern about the community. But this man had not worn clothes for a long time. His community was not in his mind. And this man had not lived in a house, but in the tombs. Living in a house is also a necessary part in social life. A house is a place to rest after a day’s work and where family members have time together for comforting and encouraging one another. Nonetheless to say, a family is the first building block of a society. Without a sound family life, it is not easy to live a sound social life. This man went far away from the life of living together in a family.

We can think further about why this man did not wear his clothes or live in a house but lived in the tombs? Most probably he did not want to be bothered by anything or anyone. He wanted to live as freely as possible with unlimited freedom. We can imagine he would to say, “Don’t bother me; leave me alone.” People would not bother him as long as he kept basic rules in the society, such as traffic rules. However, he did not keep even elementary regulations, shouting on the streets and destroying others’ and public properties. So he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard. Then he broke his chains. At this point he was not himself anymore. From a certain period he was seized by the evil spirit. When he tried to be free by being separated from anything and anyone, he was not free at all. In the end he could be free from himself, because the evil spirit, the demon, entered into him and occupied him. Verse 29 says that he was driven by the demon into solitary places. In this way he came to live in the tombs.

We also see that his personality was split. When Jesus stepped ashore, he met Jesus. Probably the place was near the graveyards. When he saw Jesus, he did not run away. Perhaps he wanted help from Jesus. Then Jesus commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. At this the evil spirit exposed itself, speaking in the person. He cried out and fell at Jesus’ feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High? I beg you, don’t torture me.” The devil is really afraid of Jesus. The man had become a man of split personality with two persons or more living together in him.

The work of demons is evident. It is to destroy oneself and community living. According to Jesus in John 8:44 the devil was a murderer from the beginning. The devil’s aim is to ultimately destroy human living and life. People are shocked again and again by random gun-shooting on the streets and schools. And people are surprized to see the aircrafts suddenly disappearing or downing. Malaysia’s national airline carries around 37,000 passengers daily to 80 destinations on 250 flights. It was hit by two tragedies in 2014, first the disappearance of Flight MH370 (carrying 239) between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, then Flight MH17 (298) crashed in Ukraine after leaving Schiphot in Netherland for Kuala Limpur. These are not natural disasters, but what people did. And behind them there are the evil forces. Also, we see that even online chatting becomes a means of harassing people even to the point of killing psychologically. The invention of gun, aircraft and missiles, and computer shows how much technology has advanced. But these become weapons of evil, when people are under the control of demons. The demons worked in the past and also are working at the present. Nowadays humans seem to become more and more fearsome and frightening, not kind, under the influence of the powerful work of demons.

Our generation seems also to be a generation of utmost freedom. In every way people want to be free, traveling a lot and being as free as possible, like flying birds. Even there is a term, “free sex.” Many people do not know that free sex is a disaster and a powerful destroying fact for an individual and family and society, while bound sex between a married couple is a blessing to bind a family in love, thus building a sound community. According to the Bible, sinning sexually is sinning against one’s own body while all other sins are committed outside the body (1 Cor 6:18), and it is like scooping fire into one’s lap or walking on hot coals (Pro 6:27-28). Those who indulge in sexual immorality have no self –respect and no sense of dignity. So many individuals and so many families are destroyed because of the deceit of free sex. This is none other than a powerful demoniac work. When people do not fear God but reject God and the truth of God, the works of the demons are rampant. When people want to be free from God, in reality the demons work freely in and through them. This is spiritual reality.

Second, Jesus’ care and cure of him (31-33). Look at verse 30a. “Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’” What an unusual question to a demon-possessed man! When we go to see a doctor, usually the doctor asks, “Tell about your sickness”, “What happened to you?” or “What’s your problem?” But Jesus asked, “What is your name?” It seems to be too elementary or plain a question to ask. Yet, it is a fundamental and profound question. Then what does it mean that Jesus asked, “What is your name?”

First of all, Jesus had a genuine interest in him. When he became demon-possessed, no one was interested in him. Nobody wanted to know his name. Most probably he had been forgotten even by his relatives and family members. What’s the point of knowing his name? Knowing his name would not make any difference. Someone calling me by name shows their interest and concern for me. This man went too far even to be a normal human being, far from any one’s interest, But Jesus was genuinely interested in him, for to Jesus he was not a brutal animal, but still a precious soul made in the image of God.

Secondly, when Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” Jesus wanted to help him to know his identity. One's name presents oneself, one’s whole man and one’s inner character. This man had been defined and known as a demon-possessed man. People knew him as a demon-possessed man. Probably his nick name was DPM, and that seemed to become his identity. But to Jesus that was not his identity. It was true that his whole man was lost, and his character was demolished by demons. Yet, to Jesus his real identity had to be restored. When God created him, he was also a master piece of God. He was a unique person with a clear purpose of God. Jesus wanted him to restore such an original identity and creation purpose for him.

Nowadays the identity problem is a serious problem. People want to be known by others and their popularity or recognition by people seems to be the identity. Yet, that cannot be one’s true identity. In fact many people are driven away with false identity. One’s true identity is found only in God. When one knows the original true identity, the person can be established as an individual. In that there is self-esteem and self-respect and true freedom.

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Thirdly, when Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” this was the starting point of his conversation with the man in an attempt to make a friendship with him. Nobody knew how to begin the conversation with a demon-possessed man, but Jesus did. He is a wonderful communicator because of his genuine love and compassion. Eventually Jesus wanted to establish a personal lasting relationship with him, that is, vine and branch relationship.

When Jesus began, asking, “What is your name?” the man did not avoid the conversation. Amazingly he responded. “Legion,” he replied. And the author commented, “because many demons had gone into him.” In Mark the man replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many” (5:9b). Surely, Mark has a point in his writing. Yet, we know that his name is not “Legion”, so Luke just wrote, “Legion” as the man’s one word reply. When the man said, “Legion,” he was not telling a lie. He recognized many demons came into him and occupied him, curiosity demon, selfish demon, proud demon, immoral demon, amoral demon, marriage demon, fatalistic demon, hedonistic demon, sarcastic demon, divorce demon, etc. When he replied, “Legion,” this was his sincere confession of his present being. Many people do not want to reveal their problems, probably saying, “I am not supposed to be like this.” However, this man recognized his reality. This was his coming to Jesus as he was.

Let’ see how Jesus helps him further. Look at verse 31. “And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.” The demons knew their final destiny and were really afraid of Jesus. They knew that right now they were face to face with the One to whom the final judgment has been committed. They were afraid that even now, before the appointed time, Jesus might hurl them into “the abyss” or “dungeon,” that is, into hell, the place where Satan is kept (Rev 21:1-10).

Then in verses 32-33, “A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them to go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.” Here we further see the demon’s destructive work . When the demons came into the pigs, even the pigs lost the joy of eating and thus the meaning of their existence and committed mass suicide. Then how much more are human beings tormented when the demons came into them? In this way Jesus healed him from demon-possession.

Here it draws our attention that Jesus valued one demon-possessed man more than a large herd of pigs, about two thousand pigs according to Mark (5:13). Of course Jesus could heal the man without the sacrifice of two thousand pigs. Yet, Jesus was teaching that the healing was costly, requiring not only the lives of the great number of pigs, but furthermore later on his very own life on the cross as a ransom sacrifice. This is the gospel truth.

In this part we thank and praise Jesus who can drive out demons from human beings and heal of demon-possession. It is due to his power and love. When we come to him as we are, he does the amazing healing work. Thank Jesus for his fundamental question, “What is our name?” In him we can have true identity and true freedom and purpose of life. May we value our relationship with him most precious and commit ourselves to him (James 4:7-8)

Third, Jesus’ direction for him (34-39). How does the story progress? When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Why were the afraid instead of thanking God and rejoicing? We remember that when Jesus raised a dead young man, the townspeople in Nain were filled with awe and praise God. But the people in the region of Gerasenes were not happy at the healing of the demon-possessed man, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. This could be the spiritual condition of that region. Verses 38-39 say. “Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the rejoin of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.” There is the progress of their fear. They were afraid, seeing the man changed from demon-possession, and then they were overcome with fear. Certainly they were afraid at the thought that their pig business would be completely ruined should Jesus stay there continually. Humanly, their fear was understandable. But it showed that the community was materialistic and business and money-oriented. In their materialism, without concern of their spiritual life, they did not know that by rejecting Jesus they were inviting the expansion of the demons’ work in their society.

Jesus had to leave them. But what did Jesus do with the man? Look at verses 38-39. “The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” We wonder why Jesus did not allow the man to go with him. It could be a great decision for the man to go with Jesus. We don’t know the exact reason. Yet, we can think of several things in this direction. Jesus wanted him to remember God’s wonderful grace and keep a deep gratitude to him. There are many people who received God’s amazing grace but forgot it and were not thankful to God and those who served them, even bitter to them. Keeping a thankful heart is a great spiritual battle to ever unthankful sinful mankind. Also, in this direction, Jesus wanted the man to live as his servant, testifying to the grace of God in the place where he is. When the recipients of God’s grace testify to his grace, the grace of God is alive in them and God uses their testimony to save other lost souls. This man once did not build up the community but rather was a burden and a trouble-maker and even a destroyer of the community. Although the townspeople rejected Jesus, Jesus did not reject them, but had a broken heart for them. Jesus left the man there so that he might testify to God’s grace and live in his own community as a man of mission. By testifying to the grace of Jesus, the man would be a good influence and a blessing to others and truly build up the community. He would testify to the grace of Jesus, “You know I was a demon-possessed man, but Jesus healed me. In the past I hated God and my family members and the people of my community, but I love God and my neighbours and serve them. And I was very fatalistic about my life, but now I live by faith.” Here we see that God wants each Christian to be a testifier of his grace, a man or woman of mission, a missionary, and evangelist and so a builder of the community.

In this study we see that demon-possession is a spiritual reality. The work of demons is evident and it is to destroy each individual and the community. But Jesus has power over evil spirits and demons. He cares for and heals of human beings’ demon-possession. He wants to restore each person and the community. Thank God for the words of Jesus, “What is your name?” May we come to as we are and keep our identity and true freedom in our commitment to him and engage in a battle against the power of demons by living a life of mission in our times.

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