Jesus and the water

Your  list of daily worries and woes probably doesn’t include demon possession. You  don’t likely think much about the prospects of some evil spiritual being taking  control of you, your body, your life. You probably don’t spend much time  thinking about the devil and his influence in your life, or even in the world  around us.

But then we come to this Gospel reading  today from Luke 8 and it all seems so shocking. Like a horror movie. A man is  completely possessed by not one, but many demons – “Legion” they are called.  They take complete control of him, and while giving him superhuman strength,  they also take from him his freedom, his home, his clothing, his dignity. Mark  tells us, in a parallel account, that they caused him to gash himself with  stones. The man was living in the tombs – surrounded by the dead – but  undergoing a living hell himself as the demons tormented him.

It had been this way for quite some time.  We don’t know how it all began, but we do know how it ended. The Son of the Most  High sets foot on the land, and immediately the demons take notice. The  tormentors (ironically) begged not to be tormented. They beg not to be cast into  the abyss. But Jesus casts them out. They take to the pigs, and then in  self-destruction those pigs run down to drown in the lake.

Now, what are we to make of all this? We  could turn this into a bible study on the details of demon possession – how it  happens, why it happens, what are the signs. We could ponder the nature of those  evil spiritual forces themselves. We could dismiss this, as some do, as a quaint  mythological story told by the early Christians to make Jesus seem even more  powerful. But none of those approaches will do.

There is a reason the Gospel writer,  inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells us this true account. And like all of  scripture, while it does teach us information, it is never simply about  head-knowledge. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message to be believed. It shows  our Savior and tells of his work and his promises for us. So what DO we make of  this?

Well, even though we are not assailed by  this kind of demon possession, we are certainly accosted by the forces of evil.  We learn in Confirmation class that our spiritual enemies are Sin, Death and the  Devil. And that temptations come from the Devil, the sinful world, and our own  sinful nature. So we must contend with the Devil and his minions. And they  harass and harangue us in many ways.

Satan loves to see us suffer, but also to distract us from what’s really important and especially to make us doubt our  salvation in Christ. He is the master of deception, the “Father of Lies”. And he  has many evil tricks and schemes up his sleeve.

It’s often said that the two mistakes we  can make when it comes to the Devil and his minions is to pretend they don’t  exist, on the one hand, or to become paranoid about them, on the other. We  needn’t find a demon under every rock. We needn’t blame Satan for our own sinful  nature and its temptations. We don’t have to lie awake at night worried about  how he will bother us next. But neither should we think that he is a fairy tale.  How many people today would affirm and endorse the existence of Heaven and  angels, but deny the existence of Hell and the Devil?

We are not the Gerasene demoniac, but  without Christ we are like him. Under the power of the Devil. Self-destructive.  Apart from God and from his people. Nothing to cover our shame. Haunted by  death, tormented by sin that brings death. Sinners who may think we are strong,  but are held captive by the Devil. All who are outside of God’s kingdom are  possessed by the Devil in one way or another.

But all is not lost. There is hope for  those under the power of the Devil. Jesus has set foot on our shore. He strikes  fear in the heart of our enemies, because they know he comes to destroy  them. He destroys sin, death and the Devil at  the cross. Jesus dies and rises and then descends to Hell to announce his  victory to the forces of evil. They know who he is, and what his  authority is. And they know they are doomed. The unclean spirits are loosed into  the unclean pigs, and they drown in the lake. And the man who was possessed is  made clean.

One of the interesting things about this  passage is the prevalence of the water. Jesus comes to the man via the water.  And those evil spirits are cast out, and they drown in the water. What a  reminder of what happens for each and every one of us in Christian  baptism. Jesus comes to us in that water, paired  with his word. He rescues us there, at the font, from the devil and all his  works and all his ways. He washes away our sins, and the unclean becomes clean.  He drowns our old sinful nature in the flood of his grace and mercy. Each day,  by repentance and remembrance of our baptism, the Old Adam is drowned anew, and  our life with God continues. We are no longer associated with death – but with  the life that he wins and brings and gives. And we are no longer “possessed” by  Satan, but instead by Christ’s own Spirit. Yes, in a way, you could say we who  are baptized are now “possessed” by the Holy Spirit. He dwells within us, guides  and directs us. He gives us life and we belong to him.

This is why we Christians need not fear  demon possession. We are already possessed by the Holy Spirit, we belong to  Jesus, who promises us that no one can snatch us from his Father’s hand. Oh the  forces of evil can distract us and tempt us. They can even make us suffer. But  they cannot have us. We belong to Christ. We are bought and paid for by his  blood. And they can’t overshadow that.

Just like the man who was freed from his  demons, and came to believe in Jesus. He was freed from one master, freed to  serve a much better master. He went and told how much Jesus did for him. And so  can we. For we have been healed and cleansed, released and restored in Jesus  Christ, by His Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

A  Message from, Tom  Chryst  brought  to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View,  Arkansas.  For prayer or more  information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project

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