January 21, 2013 by Kyle
The Bible gives a number of accounts that provides us with the best and worst of humanity–Luke 8:26-39 is a passage that shows a clash between the two. (Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 8:28-34)
Jesus arrives in the region of the Gerasenes and is welcomed by a man who had been infested with a multitude of demons. He had been tormented day and night by these fallen servants of God. He was an enigma. His life was a combination of nakedness, homelessness, mental incoherence, violence and bondage. How these demons came to inhabit his body is not stated, but rarely do we have a timeline of sin and how one came to be possessed, addicted or in bondage. We often times see the person as the shell of their former selves. He was driven by these fallen spirits through grave yards–places where the dead rest until judgment day. He was alone and the text says that the spirits would often lead him to solitary places. Although inhabited by many demons who identified themselves as “Legion” (λεγεών used in the New Testament to convey a great number; 6,000 Roman soldiers) he is without meaningful human relationships.
I can’t help but see a parallel between this man’s life and the lifestyle of many within our culture. There are many whose lives consist of running from club to club–self medicated, naked without a place to call home where healthy relationships are the norm. Their thinking has been flipped and they hold onto the idea that man is the center of the universe. They have denied the Creator and exchanged Him for a smaller, pocket sized god. Their identity, like this demon possessed man, has been replaced by something else–maybe not “Legion,” but something that compels them to harm themselves. The young and old hope to acquire new identities through tattoos, piercings and other fashion trends. They wear what they see their gods wear. They consume the details of those they worship.
They ‘instagram’ pictures of self worship and post them for public consumption. ‘Soul for Sale’ is what’s advertised in dark night clubs and questionable dating sites. On a daily basis, strangers lay down with each other and exchange more than they realize. Soul ties are lifelong and casual sex is never anonymous and without consequences. Legions of lost souls run through the tombs; aimless and empty trying to find something that will mask the pain and shame. Music, drugs, sex, clothes, notoriety, and intellect–all come up short and leave us all thirsty, hungry and naked.
Jesus had just calmed the wind and waves in the previous passage in Luke 8 and He arrives ashore when is met by an audible pleading for mercy. When God shows up the battle over territory ensues. The fallen followers of the evil one want respite and Jesus grants them a pause as their time in the Abyss approaches. These spirits understand their ultimate place and they know the One who would exact judgment on evil on the Last Day.
Jesus the Liberator shows up and frees this man of his demons. the text does not say that Jesus questioned him about how he came to be a dwelling for demons. Instead, the power of the Most High dislodges what was once an impenetrable connection between man and these spirits. They find a new home in the swine and those swine ultimately bear the cost and are drowned in the lake that Jesus had just calmed. At this, the townspeople fear and therefore made request that Jesus leave them. Did they fear a greater power than what they had become accustomed to? When Jesus shows up those in the spirit realm and those in the flesh are forced to respond–a neutral response is not appropriate. God’s presence in our lives challenges the demonic and the flesh.
The man who was once imprisoned and possessed is now sitting at the feet of Jesus, “…dressed in his right mind.” He is now clothed, cognizant and Christ-centered. Jesus tells him to go back home and to get involved in the process of redemptive community building. A maniac is changed into a missional representative of the One who can calm the winds, waves and legions of demonic forces. This story began with a man out of his mind who was kept on the outskirts of the city by those who wanted peace and safety. Christ steps ashore and flipped the script and now this man is at peace, experiencing the shalom of the Messiah while the people of Gerasenes are now afraid of the one who could deliver them from their insanity. What a dichotomy! They asked the One who could transform their lives to leave them– who’s crazy now? One man’s liberation can sometimes translate into another man’s loss.