Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pentecost 4 Sermon -- Luke 8:26-39 (LSB Proper 7C)

June 20, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met Him a man from the city who had demons. . . . When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before Him and said with a loud voice: ‘What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?’”

“What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” Even while falling down before Jesus, the demoniac builds itself up and confronts Jesus with those words. The behavior is much like the lizards or snakes who puff out their necks or rattle their tails when preparing to strike or defend themselves. This possessed man knows that Jesus is a threat, that Jesus has nothing good to do with him. This is a confrontation, and it will have a negative result for the demon, no matter how powerful and aggressive it tries to make itself. For after the challenging words, what does the demoniac say to Jesus? “I beg You, do not torment me.”

The demon is powerful. It causes great damage. Look at the torment that it brought to the Gerasene man: “For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. . . . Many a time 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 desert.” This is the record of the demon’s actions. It despises everything good and relishes in everything evil. The evil spirit makes the man a menace to society. The unclean spirit ruins the man’s sound mind, making him to reside away from the community, to live among the dead. That is the power the demon has to harm the man who is weak compared to angelic beings.

But despite the demon’s strength and ability over the Gerasene man, it has no ability over the Nazarene Man. Its fate is sealed, For the demon is not all-powerful. It is strong, but not almighty. The demon cannot withstand the power of the Son of the Most High God. So when Jesus is confronted by this possessed man, He hears the cry: “I beg You, do not torment me.” Why does this plea come out? “For [Jesus] had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.” Despite all its strength and power, despite its posturing, the demon cannot resist the command that comes from the Son of the Most High God, the One who has power over the creation, who “even the winds and the waters obey.”

Jesus commands; the demon and all the other demons obey. He tells them to come out of the man. They will obey, even as they ask for terms from Jesus: “And they begged Him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged Him to let them enter these. So He gave them permission.” Even with their pleas, the demons will leave the man: “Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pig, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.” There is the fulfillment of the command: the demons leave the Gerasene man and he is restored to his right state, as the Evangelist describes: “Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and 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.”

This incident in the country of the Gerasenes is a raw display of divine power. It causes fright in the people who witness it: “When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. . . . Those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked [Jesus] to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So He got into the boat and returned.” Showing the power over the demonic is amazing and astonishing. It frightens. And it should, for what is seen is beyond the normal, beyond the ordinary. This awesome display of divine authority was done by Jesus for the benefit of those afflicted. Despite the frightful reaction of the Gerasenes who demand that Jesus leaves, what Jesus did freed the possessed man. All Jesus’ authority was used to take the man from the clutches of the demonic to be one of His people, to sit at His feet. And Jesus authorizes the man to proclaim what had been done for him, so that other might believe: “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.”

But this great divine act done in the Gerasenes is not just a thing of the past. No, Jesus does it here and now. For the ability that Jesus possesses over the demonic is not just for the past; the Son of the Most High God still holds that authority. And not only does He hold that authority, He bestows it upon others to use for the benefit of the afflicted in this day and age. Jesus wants others to be free, to be delivered, to be saved. He confronts that which afflicts and binds mankind; His command must be heeded by them, especially including that which afflicts and binds the soul.

This freeing and delivering is Christ’s mission and purpose. What He did for the Gerasene man is what He does for you. Hear what the Apostle Paul said about Christ and His work: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ Jesus have put on Christ. . . . In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Understanding Paul’s statements, you will see how he describes Christ’s freeing work in you.

You “were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” You were powerless against the base thoughts, words, and deeds that accompany sinful existence. You were under the assaults and afflictions of Satan. But that has changed. For a new Spirit has been given to you: “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Before that happened, you were like the Gerasene man: filled with unclean spirit, rebellious against God, driven to harm and destruction. What happened? Christ confronted you. He said: “Depart unclean spirit, and make way for the Holy Spirit.” You once were naked, dispossessed of all that is good, but now Christ has clothed you with Himself. You once were living in the way of death, dwelling in the tomb of unholiness, but Christ has brought you to the way of life. You once were of deluded mind, truly knowing nothing of righteousness and virtue. But now, your minds have been renewed and enlightened: you know the way of salvation that is found in the work of the Son of the Most High God.

There has been a transformation for you, just as there was for the Gerasene man. That happens as Christ confronted you, both on your baptismal day and even this morning. The actions that He takes for you are great and powerful. It may not frighten your eyes, but the ability of God Himself is present here. Though having God Himself confront you can be a scary event, yet as you have been called to faith, you don’t react like the Gerasenes. You don’t ask Jesus to depart from you. You don’t say like the unfaithful Israelites: “Keep to Yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for You.” Instead, you call to Him like the Psalmist David: “I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill. . . . Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked.” And your pleas are answered. Jesus gives His commands: “Be forgiven!” and you are absolved; “Leave these men and women unharmed!” and you are safe again; “Follow Me!” and you walk again in the way of His righteousness.

Jesus confronts what still afflicts you: your mortality, your sinfulness, your acts of unrighteousness committed in the past week. In your imperfection you may say in fear: “What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” But Jesus does not torment you. No, He commands what is unclean to be gone. He forgives you. He sets you right again. He restores you to your holy status. And because that has happened, you are authorized to speak. You are sent from this place with the command: “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.”

You may be asked: “Just what has God done for you?” You can answer: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Your conscience is faced with the question: “What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” And you can answer: “You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” When asked, “What is your name?” You may reply: “I am an heir of the Eternal Father, for that is what the Son of the Most High God has made me.” That’s what Christ’s confrontation with everything that afflicts you—even sin, death, and Satan has accomplished. And that is what you may declare that to all those who are around you, trusting that Jesus overcomes your enemies who try to afflict you again.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

No comments: