Healing of a Demon-Possessed Boy (Luke 9:37-43)

The transfiguration was an amazing experience, especially for the disciples. Likewise, for Jesus, the meeting with Moses and Elijah and discussion about the pending close of his mission on earth, this too must have been a glorious experience. In that our text today speaks of Peter, James and John descending the mountain with Jesus, we may surmise that the transfiguration was at night. Surely that was extra impressive.

Coming down from the mountain, there again was the crowd. The loudest voice out of the crowd was a father interceding for his only son. It surely felt like this was going from the way things God intended relationship to be, to the realities again of a fallen world in the grips of Satan’s influence. Thus Jesus says to a perverse and unbelieving generation, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”  Soon, Jesus would endure the work of the cross and pay the price that would atone for the conditions such as were suffered by this child.

The nine disciples who were not with Jesus on the mountain were unable to cast out the controlling demon and heal the boy of the physical malady. But Jesus does it instantly. Once again we see the statement of the amazement of those who witnessed this. This is a most powerful Greek word that speaks of people being stunned out of their senses.

The main point to be taken from this passage is the juxtaposition of the glorious transfiguration with the frustration and brokenness of a world where sin has a child infested with both a malady and a demonic influence.

There are more than a few times when I also feel this frustration, especially in these days where as a church family we have experienced such a list of people with sad and difficult health crises.

It will not always be this way!  Jesus, likewise the only son of a Father, has paid the price for the ultimate change to be realized. Some days, and at certain times – like recently – that confident hope seems especially extra good.

Luke 9:37 – The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”

41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”

42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

The Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36)

Think back just three years ago from right now. What were you doing? What was happening in your life in late January of 2015?  That isn’t really very long ago, is it?  If you’re like me, it seems more like months ago than three years ago.

Three years – that is the total time of Christ’s public ministry and the time that the disciples were exposed to this greatest experience of their lives. It must have been a whirlwind sort of adventure. Going from mere fishermen (thinking of Peter, James and John specifically) to becoming foremost witnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Christ – that was a lot to absorb.

Throughout the gospel narratives we see the disciples struggling to take it all in and rightly understand everything. Of course, it could not all be understood until it was all over. This was especially true of the atoning work of the cross.

At the transfiguration, Jesus pulls back the curtain a bit so that these three disciples can see the bigger picture of his glory. Moses represented the beginning of the nation – the giving of the Law and the exodus from Egypt through the Passover. And Elijah was the eschatological (last times) figure of the nation, stated in Malachi that he would return before the great and terrible day of the Lord. (In the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark, it is clear from the words of Jesus that this was fulfilled in John the Baptist.)

All in all, this was a profound experience for these three disciples. It would deeply affect them, though the full significance was not understood until later. This experience surely bolstered their lives and their ministries in the future: James as the first Christian martyr, Peter as the rock upon which the church would be built, and John as a foremost leader and the writer of his gospel, letters, and the Revelation.

Yes, the transfiguration experience was surely confusing. The statement of Peter to put up shelters is a bit cryptic, probably being a desire to continue in the moment and have the heavenly visitors stay.

The voice coming out of the cloud – clearly that of God – contains the same authenticating words as at the baptism of Jesus. “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”  Yes, it was all confusing and too much to comprehend. What the disciples needed for that moment was to be reminded to listen to what Jesus said.

Now there is a timeless truth if ever there was one!  In the confusion, listen to Jesus. That’s what you really need. Maybe you didn’t need that message today quite as much as I have needed it. Listen. Obey. Stay the course. Be faithful. Trust and move forward.

Luke 9:28 – About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Jesus Predicts His Death (Luke 9:21-22, Luke 9:43-45, Luke 18:31-34)

One of the most famous questions ever asked in American history is that attributed to Tennessee Senator Howard Baker in the midst of the Nixon investigations: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”  That question is often slightly morphed in many situations as a bottom line sort of inquiry to clearly understand an event and to assign either guilt or innocence.

This is actually a good question for us to ask in Bible study, “What did particular characters of Scripture know, and when did they know it?”  It is easy for us to especially read too much understanding back into a biblical account, and that is because we know the outcome. This is a challenge for historians as well – to not read the inevitabilities of an event we know as accomplished back into the minds of the participants before it all unfolded. I see this all the time as people discuss the Battle of Antietam – with folks attributing way more clarity of the pending battle into the minds of either General McClellan or General Lee. It just looks so obvious … to us!

Today we look at the three passages where Jesus told the disciples that he was going to die, yet be also raised to life again. Christ was very specific on the third occasion, saying that he would rise again on the third day. That is VERY precise!  So why are the disciples such dopes about the entire passion narrative?

We should read into this a divine element of them being prevented by God from clearly understanding. The words of Jesus were then later remembered after the death and resurrection, as the disciples at that point clearly understood that the Savior had indeed spoken of this explicitly. That may be all the answer we need.

But let’s try to drop into the sandals of the disciples for a moment. They are travelling around with Jesus for quite some time. They have witnessed incredible things: miracles galore, and even resurrections from the dead. Their ears have heard teachings about the coming kingdom, and they were believing that he was indeed the king. Though opposition was regular, clearly Jesus had the greater power. The disciples perceived themselves as on a winning team.

Projecting out into the future on the other side of the return of Jesus Christ and the consummation of the grand end-times events, it is imaginable that Christian people will look back at us in our Nikes and Rebooks and wonder why we were such dopes. Why in the world could we not better see and anticipate the approach of Christ’s return?  Why could we not see and understand the degradation of the material world and have a more profound sense of the time when Christ returned?

Even so, though we don’t know those details that are yet future, we live in a wonderful time of an advanced knowledge of God’s big story. We are so privileged to have the entire, completed Word of God. In it we know the entire account of the unfolding, redemptive work of Christ. We are able to see how it relates in great detail to the Old Testament systems of worship and atonement.

We are richly blessed by the knowledge we possess.

Luke 9:21 – Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Luke 9:43 – While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

Luke 18:31 – Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

Peter’s Declaration (Luke 9:18-20)

Everything we believe and trust in will rise and fall on the question we discuss today: who do you say Jesus is?

The wise men wondered this, as did Herod. John the Baptist asked, and even Christ’s own family seemed to struggle with the identification as well. The religious leaders knew who they did not want him to be! The whole nation was pondering.

And so, in a moment of retreat with the disciples, Jesus asks the question of them as to what the many crowds had to say about it. As they begin to answer, you can imagine the laughter around this circle of 13 men.

The first answer was John the Baptist, who of course had been beheaded prior to this time. And there were similarities, as each preached about personal repentance and the kingdom’s soon coming. John could prepare men to receive God, but Christ could enable men to receive God.

Next is the common suggestion that Jesus was a second coming of Elijah. Both were men of prayer who performed miracles. It was a common teaching (based upon a passage in Malachi) that Elijah would come before the Messiah. So, as with John, those who saw Jesus as Elijah perceived him to be a forerunner of the actual Christ.

The third suggestion is that it was one of the prophets (in Matthew’s gospel, the name Jeremiah was suggested). Like these servants of God, Jesus was a man of suffering in the midst of preaching and seeking to do good.

The poor and insufficient Jewish anticipation of the Messiah is evident. They anticipated a liberating figure who would supply their every need and overthrow their oppressors. Rather, Jesus emphasized personal repentance and spiritual liberation.

The jovial atmosphere was brought up short with a sudden jolt, as Jesus asks them, “Who do you say that I am?”  You get the feeling that there may well have been a pregnant pause.

This is one of those times where the Greek language has an advantage. To emphasize a word in a sentence (since word order is less important than in English), you write or speak the most important word first. So, the question is more like this: “You! Who do YOU think I am?”

As the most common spokesman for the group, Peter – this time – nails the answer with the crisp sound of the hammer upon the head. “God’s Messiah.”  The passage in Matthew 16:16 gives us an even clearer sense of his response: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And Peter is commended highly for the accuracy of his answer.

Over the years, all sorts of pseudo-Christian groups have failed to answer this question fully and accurately, groups like the Ebionites, Gnostics, Marcionites, Monarchianists, Arians, etc. These groups and their leading teachers did not rightly understanding the divinity and the humanity, emphasizing one to the exclusion of the other. And every cult or heresy since that time is simply one of these sects dressed up in different clothes.

It does not matter what others say, be they people at the office, the shop, the school, etc.  It matters what YOU say. Jesus is the perfect son of God – fully man without sin, and fully God at the same time. This qualifies him as the only perfect sacrifice for sin who could defeat death and offer a valid eternal life to those who believe.

It is the most important question … and answer.

Luke 9:18 – Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”

Feeding of the 5,000 (Luke 9:10-17)

I am terrified of not having enough food!  No, I’m not talking about myself, but rather when there is a big event for which I have some responsibility. For example, a week from Sunday (Superb Owl night – I’m going to use that title somehow next year since we’re not supposed to use “the other one!”) we will be hosting the Kingdom United Fellowship – our new partnership with a number of African-American churches in the community. This is a first time that they are coming to our place, versus me and a few of us from TSF attending an event at one of their facilities. I really, really want this to go well!  I’m planning food and seeking helpers (give me a call!), and I’m also counting on A.C.&T. down the street for a lot of chicken. We’ll bring other stuff, as will our guests, but I’m still worried about it. It would be great to have Jesus here as he was in the passage we look at today – the account of the feeding of 5,000 with just a few fish and some bread. He could repeat that with chicken and hot dogs and salsa dip, right?

I try not to worry, because it always works out. Only once in the history of TSF did we not have enough food at an event. Very early in my time here (probably around 1995) we had one particular Sunday morning outdoor service at Camp Joy-El, with a luncheon to follow. Somehow, we didn’t have enough food brought by the people attending. The women of the church were HORRIFIED!!  They said that this would NEVER happen again, and it hasn’t. But, I worry … so help me out.

This account of Jesus with the 12 disciples would be after their return from having been sent out by Christ to preach, etc.  Back now with the Master, he was taking them to a more secluded place to likely debrief (as we see in tomorrow’s passage) and to rest, etc.  But the crowds would have none of this. They followed him, along with the disciples; and now they found themselves at a place with insufficient resources to feed this multitude. The disciples have a Randy-esque… TSF women-esque response of “OH NO!!”

We are left to wonder what the crowd was thinking. Maybe they had less concerns than the disciples. They were looking for miracles. As we know from one of the other gospels, there was one Jewish, first-century boy scout in the crowd who was prepared with some food; that was all that could be found. But Jesus orders them to sit in groups of 50s and he multiplies the scant resources into enough that there was plenty left over.

Those who were there would have surely had two Old Testament stories come immediately to mind. The first would be the way that God through Moses provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, sending them their daily manna. Beyond that, they would likely also recall a more obscure story of Elisha (in 2 Kings 4:42-44) providing more than enough vittles for 100 prophets to eat, doing so out of a mere supply of 20 loaves of bread.

Beyond that, looking back at this account from the church age, Christians would see Jesus giving thanks and breaking bread, recalling the scene from the last supper. And of course, this represents Jesus’ provision for our spiritual needs through the giving of his life.

Be it bread for physical life or spiritual life, God provides for his people. There are dozens of passages and stories to support this primary idea. So why should we ever live in any actual concern for ourselves about our basic needs?  Maybe we fear too much that our basic needs may be met just in that way … basically, rather than abundantly. But in any event, it is silly to not trust God. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

From Luke 9:10ff …

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”

13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Sending Out the Twelve (Luke 9:1-9)

When I was a boy growing up with a commited church environment, it was the weekly duty to fill out questions in a Sunday School lesson book. The class time would involve both teaching and the discussion of the questions we all answered and brought with us. I cannot remember a single class in particular or any one topic of discussion, but it must have accomplished some good instruction in my life.

After my 9th grade school year had concluded, my best friend in the church talked me into going to a Christian camp in South Jersey to work there with him on the staff. He was the pastor’s son and was really into cooking, so he was going to work in the kitchen (where one of the girls serving with him was Katie Williams’ mother!). I was targeted to work with the grounds crew on the large property that included many buildings and rustic cabins, along with three lakes.

The first day at the camp held a surprise for me. Whereas my friend was sent off to the kitchen while others were called aside to do grounds work, my name was read off as one of the children’s workers for the counseling staff. It was explained to me that they were short on having enough counselors, and that my former pastor (who was on the board of directors) told them that though I was younger than the rest, they should just tell me to do it.

But I had to pass a Bible knowledge test, and to my surprise, I scored higher than several of the Bible College students in the group. It was all of those years of Sunday School lessons paying off! After a week of training, the first group of campers arrived. Suddenly I was in charge of a cabin of seven 10-year-olds for a week, teaching a daily bedtime devotional that I had to do on my own without any supplied materials. Though a bit terrified at first, I was amazed at how easy it turned out to be. And I distinctly remember a sense of the Spirit helping me put thoughts together and bring them out of my mouth with relative ease.

It was a transitional period of life where I went from being the constant disciple and student, to being a teacher of others who had not yet heard the stories and information that were now familiar to me.

This is essentially what happens in our account today. The 12 disciples are sent out by Jesus with the power AND authority to preach the message of the kingdom (and the Messiah King who was now with them), authenticated by the power to heal and defeat the demonic elements encountered.

The 12 were certainly prepared in many ways by their personal association with Christ and his teachings to have the content to successfully complete the task. But Jesus sends them out with no reserve of material supports to depend upon. They would have to discover that God was able to sufficiently supply their daily needs in every way.

The mission throughout Galilee was to call people to a commitment about who exactly Jesus Christ was. There was confusion amongst the people, as the word about Jesus was spreading widely. And this news came to Herod the Tetrarch, the ruler of that area. He had beheaded John the Baptist and gave no credence to the suggestion that Jesus was a resurrection of the eccentric preacher. Others told him that Jesus was a return of Elijah or one of the prophets. Herod desired to see Jesus himself.

I see two timeless applications from these few verses today.

The first is that a time comes in our Christian lives when we should be moving from primarily being a mere hearer and follower, to a time where we are sharing that truth with others. We never stop growing and learning, but our lives are not to be ultimately about the mere gaining of knowledge. Rather it is for the purpose of being better equipped to serve in whatever place the Lord has for us to move about in our lives here.

A second application is to see that, be it then or be it now, the key question in life for every person is to accurately identify who Jesus Christ is. The answer to this means everything. There are people in religious leadership as a career who cannot and do not answer this question correctly. They think Jesus is merely a great teacher or moral example, if indeed there really was a historic Jesus at all beyond a legend that grew to enormous proportions. But the only answer that is correct and that gives life is to understand that Jesus is the divine Son of God who, in fulfillment of God’s promises dating back to the beginning of the human race, came in the flesh to pay the price of sin through his death and offer life through his resurrection.

Our mission in life is to accurately understand this truth, and then to grow in sufficient knowledge of it to be able to pass along that truth to others. We are all sent into the world in this regard. As God empowers you and supplies your needs, who are you telling about him today?

Luke 9:1 – When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

7 – Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, 8 others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. 9 But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see him.

Jesus Heals a Woman, Raises a Dead Girl (Luke 8:40-56)

Luke continues to accumulate stories of the authority of Jesus over the issues of disease and death – today with the account of a woman with a problem of bleeding being healed by simply touching Christ, along with the account of the raising of the young daughter of Jairus.

All of this happens around crowds of people who welcomed Christ’s return to their region, for they were all expecting him. The woman had to press through crowds that were said to be almost crushing Jesus. Along with the grievous nature of her illness, it also made her ceremonially unclean and essentially an outcast. But her faith was strong, and she gains immediate healing. By asking who touched him, Jesus is not seeking information; rather, it is about desiring the woman to state her faith publicly.

As a ruler of the local synagogue, it adds to the remarkable nature of the faith of Jairus. And even when he receives word that the daughter has indeed died, he continues to believe that Jesus can change the situation. The scene is rather ridiculous. At one moment the people are mourning the death, to the extent that Jesus tells them to stop wailing – that the girl is merely asleep. Yet at the next moment, they are laughing at him for saying such a thing. The crowds are fickle – and that is our point today.

Jesus, upon the raising of the daughter in the presence of just the parents and the inner core of the disciples, tells them to not tell anyone what had happened. Why? This is because he did not want the news of his deeds and the following of disciples to escalate at a rate too quickly before the appointed time of his final work in Jerusalem.

But in this passage, as in so many others, we see crowds of people who are in awe of Jesus, many of them believing (rightly) that he was the Messiah. They loved the miracles and all the good things that Jesus could do for them. But where were these masses of people at the very end? Yes, there were adoring crowds to some extent at the triumphal entry. But ultimately the masses were shouting for his crucifixion.

It was one thing to follow Jesus on the small stage and in the remote comforts of one’s own town, but it was another thing altogether to be associated with him on the big stage in Jerusalem, as Jesus was in the angry hands of the Sanhedrin and the Romans.

There is some timeless truth in this, isn’t there? It is one thing to be excited about Jesus in the relative comfort of the church community, but quite another thing to be associated with him in the hostile environment of our godless, secular culture. We desire that God does great things for us and we pray for his blessings in our lives, yet there is an inevitable cost to pay for discipleship in a world that is controlled (for now) by the king of darkness. But the cost is worth it, with rewards that are literally out of this world.

Luke 8:40 – Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man (Luke 8:26-39)

I have one question today for readers to consider about our passage of Jesus driving demons out of a possessed man, resulting in their entrance into a herd of pigs that rush off a cliff into the sea: Should we call the condition of the pigs as having contracted a case of swine flu, or is it legionnaire’s disease? (You can’t get this depth of biblical analysis just anywhere!)

The region where the possessed man lived is in Gentile territory on the other side (eastern) of the sea of Galilee. This is the only recorded event from this trip that involved the stormy waters that were calmed. Is there a demonic element to both? Such is purely conjecture, but it is interesting to consider.

But what is clear in Luke’s writing (as a Gentile author) is that the mission of Jesus and the proclamation of the gospel is not going to be confined to the Jewish world. This is a major theme that Luke carries of course into the books of Acts.

The inclusion of this narrative is also to show that Jesus has the highest of divine authority – over the demons and fallen angelic workers of the kingdom of darkness. These demons (and there were many, as the name “Legion” implies – the word for the Roman military detachment of thousands) had entirely possessed this man. His condition is the most severe imaginable – naked, uncontrollable, driven from society.

Make no mistake about it, demons have significant powers. But wherever they come into an encounter with Jesus, they display a total meltdown. In the verbiage of Hans and Franz of Saturday Night Live fame, their “pumping of the muscle” totally leaves them and they wimp their way into complete “girlie men angels.”  (Again, you can’t get this analysis just anywhere!)

But in all seriousness, what frightens you the most at this moment of your life? Is it as scary as what this possessed man was going through?  Not likely. And the risen Christ who resides within you in the form of the Holy Spirit is that same power that caused these powerful demons to chicken out into a bunch of pigs who thought they were eagles!

The reaction of the townspeople is interesting. Rather than welcoming such a display of power and authority, they just want to avoid it completely. Is that not a picture of the common man in our world today?  Rather than submit to God and his rule, they would rather avoid him and keep driving the car of their lives themselves.

It is also interesting to see the response of the now formerly-possessed man. Wishing to go with Jesus, he is instead told to stay where he is, but to bear witness of God’s work in his life. This reminds us that God has a place for each of us, and it will not be the same place. We may not all get prominent roles on the stage of ministry with Jesus, but we all have a role to play – our place to work in the vineyard (to use another metaphor). But in any place – large or small, prominent or remote – we should be an active and public witness relative to the faith that has changed our lives and given us a new purpose.

As well, our faith inoculates us from contracting demonic swine flu or legionnaire’s disease! There is nothing ultimately to fear from the kingdom of darkness.

Luke 8:26 – They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 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.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 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. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 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.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “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.

Jesus Calms the Storm (Luke 8:22-25)

One of my favorite story illustrations I have used over the years is of a missionary family that I knew from the church of my youth. The husband was one of these techy, mechanically-savvy types of fellows who could fix just about anything. And on the mission field in Central America, he would go often from station to station, church to church, helping people with practical complications in a third-world context.

But there were times when even he would be a bit stumped, expressing some exasperation when a project was not going well. At those times it was reported that his wife would say, “Honey, do you want me to pray about this?”

And he was known to comically reply, “No, not yet. Give me five more minutes!”

We laugh at that, but we essentially do that all the time!  We either forget to pray and trust God in a difficult situation, or we passively think He is either disinterested or unable to actually help us.

The disciples displayed this sort of attitude upon the occasion of a storm descending upon them when crossing Galilee. These storms could come up quickly. And recall that a number of these disciples were more than just a bit experienced with boating.

Luke 8:22 – One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Sometimes God allows perilous events in our lives to cause us to turn to him in trust and in throes of our desperation. It is then that He may prove Himself to be strong on our behalf – either solving the situation for us or giving us the fortitude to endure through it … perhaps even taking us by His grace to the final shore and harbor.

This calls to our minds one of the greatest of passages … Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6,7)

So, from that passage, what difficulty of life is there that is excluded from being appropriate to bring before God? Nothing! We should think of life and our relationship with God as a continual conversation in prayerful dependence.

Holding out on bringing anything before the Lord?

The Family of Jesus (Luke 8:19-21)

Like probably most of you, I have a mixed bag of earthly family members. Among them are several of the most brilliant and accomplished people I have ever known, yet also there are some who would balance out the intelligence and success spectrum from the other end. Among relatives as well are some of extraordinary faith who embody a heritage that extends back to the foundations of the Swiss Reformation, yet also are some who have rejected faith values rather definitively.

I most especially love the analogy of the church as a family. Surely all of you at TSF hear me speak in these terms weekly. There is plenty of New Testament material that does the same, speaking of our adoption into the spiritual family, terming us as brothers and sisters in Christ. And for so many people, this new family is especially precious when the earthly family is in dysfunction and disarray.

As did Matthew and Mark, in our passage today Luke tells the account of the earthly family of Jesus being nearby and sending word to him within the crowd of their presence. He does not choose to drop everything and run out to embrace them …

Luke 8:19 – Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Joseph is apparently out of the picture, perhaps dying at a relatively young age. Jesus had half-brothers, though we should rather accurately surmise that they were not early followers. And to use a modern, street term, Jesus appears to “dis” his family. He rather identifies his true family as those who hear the word of God and put it into practice. Note that this is more than studying it and understanding it, but not applying it. (But recall that it is his brother, James, who will later write that we should be doers of the Word and not just hearers! He got the message!)

But how do we balance human family and spiritual family?  That can be a challenge. We have responsibilities with our biological family, especially as parents. And when we become attached to the greater, eternal family of faith, we should not just blow off our earthly relatives. Of all people, we should first want them to understand truth and be a part of the true and better family – that of the redeemed sons and daughters of God through our brother, Jesus Christ.

But what a wonderful blessing it is to have an eternal family that is built around a common faith in the greatest of all truths!  It is always for our personal good that we maximize this divinely-established gift. Just as it is a bit crazy to only check in with close family on Christmas and a 4th of July picnic, it is actually crazier to not work to be intimately involved with the eternal family that is found in the church of Christ.