Luke 8: 26-39
I don’t know why, but much of the spam that I receive is addressed to Sharon. Sharon, we’ve got Russian brides ready to ship off to you. Sharon, we’ve got a sale on ink and toner. Sharon, have you considered ‘anatomy’ augmentation? Sharon, I am stuck in West Ghana and I need your financial assistance. Please send me $10,000 USD and upon my release my vast wealth will all be yours. (Well that ones tempting especially because it lines out a real hardship case that plays upon my compassionate heart).
While I never click into the span email for fear of infecting my computer, I have to say it is rather humorous to read the headlines. Sharon has one active life, much more exciting than mine! But I am not Sharon. And how the scammers got my email address to send me all of these enticing emails, I dunno, I think it’s called hacking or some such thing.
Suffice this all to say, they’ve got the wrong person. They are barking up the wrong tree. I do not identify with Sharon in any way, or anything that she subscribes too. It’s a case of potential stolen identity, and if completely stolen it would be in need of restoration.
Let’s now have a look at the Gerasene Demoniac from the Gospel of Luke the 8th chapter. I think there are some similarities that we might see as well as other valuable insight.
Then they arrived at the country of the Geresenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 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 into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
This. (period) ….as they say on Facebook when people want you to read what they’ve shared and reposted and has touched them in such a way. This. Well, this passage speaks to our inner anxieties, the cacophony of voices that we hear in our head, faith in the midst of crisis, restoration of identity and healing of the mind, body and spirit. So, this!!! But it’s complex, so lets unpack it.
Just steps out of his little wooden boat that had been sailing on the Sea of Galilee on a sunny day; Jesus arrives on the other side of the sea in the country of the Gerasenes. What the text doesn’t explicitly say is that this is Gentile territory, not necessarily a place that he, a Jew, would be seen. But before all this happens we know that he has been out with his disciples sailing when he fell asleep and a huge storm blows up as they are want to do on that Sea. The disciples were afraid and ask who is this person? Come on, they’ve been with him for a while, they have been his chosen disciples, did they really have to ask who Jesus was?
But in this Gentile territory, where people are not his own, we are given the answer to their question from a demonic no less. This person is ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God’ when Legion addresses Jesus.
So the dynamic of inclusion is already set. Jesus is not recognized by his own but is recognized by the ‘other’. When he steps foot on Gerasene soil he is stepping outside of the comfort zones of all who surround him, and he ministers to someone who is way beyond the norm of first century Judaism. He crosses boundaries because it is important to his ministry of love and inclusion. The gospel of Jesus Christ, salvation, healing and love is for all people.
And that brings us to Legion. This poor man. Possessed with so many demons that he self identifies as ‘Legion’ because there are thousands of demons within him. These thousands have taken away his identity. A legion is approximately 5 thousand soldiers in the Roman army. Legion was troubled and in need of serious healing, he had lost himself to the demons, hence he was very alone in his world.
He was homeless, living amongst the tombstones in a very dark place and when he saw Jesus he fell down before him. And Jesus heals him, Jesus commands the demons to come out of Legion and to enter a herd of swine. At this point Jesus is in conversation with the demons directly and the demons obey Jesus. They come out of Legion and enter the swine that take their own lives. That’s dramatic but necessary for Legion to regain his senses, his family, his place in society and ultimately his true self.
Then Legion asked to follow Jesus but instead Jesus tells him to go home and tell people what had happened to him. And from that moment on the word about Jesus and his miraculous power of healing began to spread throughout the land.
Did you ever feel as if you had demons inside of you? Have you ever felt, or have been overwhelmed by voices raging inside your head or around you? They are the things within you that you cannot seem to overcome, things that keep you stuck in one very shadowy, threatening place. Things that keep you up at night, things that perhaps keep you from living a “normal” life.
“I’m too fat, I’m too thin, I’m not smart enough, I don’t think the way others think, I’ve got a questionable past and no one will accept me, I know something is not right but I’m afraid to say something, I know something is wrong and I need the strength to talk about it.” These voices can drive you to despair and ultimately denigrate your identity because they take away from the God given person that you are and chip away at your self-confidence. These ‘demons’ are very real because they can take over your life and your thinking. In fact you begin to identify more with the demons than who you are as a person. When that happens it is easy to give up hope and lose sight of the restorative power of God through Jesus Christ. But you have to stand firm.
With Legion these demons had a life of their own. BUT when they encountered Jesus they knew they had to get out of Legion and they beg Jesus to send them to the swine. When Jesus orders them to leave Legion, they do! Can you imagine the chaos of the demons leaving Legion and entering the pigs and the awful squealing and snorting they must have made. But then the silence. The silence of healing, the silence of God’s peace that passes all human understanding.
It is said that Martin Luther, who although a great reformer struggled with many demons, when oppressed by the devil would take courage by shouting out, “I am baptized!” He grounded himself in the saving power of Jesus Christ and in the power and confidence of his salvation.
We too have the power of the cross; we have, through this story, through Legion,
been shown that there is nothing too demonic, to evil, which can keep us down. Those voices in your head do not have the last word! You can declare that you are beloved and loved, saved and accepted for whom you are. And you can get help; you do not have to do it alone. May God’s healing love surround you this day and every day. Amen.