In the Name of the Father, and of the Son +, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today in our Gospel lesson we’re given the story of the Gerasene Demoniac—the story of a man possessed by a demon. And this man, created in the image of God, once held and loved in his mother’s arms, has been taken over by the power of evil, and so is deadly and dangerous that he is chained up and living naked in the tombs all alone, his is a story full of fear and death.
Now these days we don’t think too much about demons, about the reality of evil, it’s seems a little too naïve or superstitious, though Christians all over the world and down the ages have always believed in this dangerous reality. And it’s funny to me in our country with the highest rate of depression, the highest rate of mental illness, the most loneliness, the most unhappiness, or school shootings seemingly happening every week, that we don’t really believe in the demonic, or that we don’t realize there is an blank, cold, remorseless evil that is opposed to God of Life and of Love, that there is an evil that delights in the destruction of our bodies and souls that are made in God’s own holy image. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he didn’t exist.”
Because what happened to the possessed man 2000 years ago in the tombs, isn’t it still happening today. Aren’t we still cut off from our family and friends like him, feeling alone in this world? Aren’t we still making our home in the tombs, becoming used to the routine of death, with such little hope about anything? Aren’t folks suffering still like this possessed man, and then their suffering made worse by the chains of shame and stigma hung on them by those around them? The last petition of the Lord’s Prayer asks, “Deliver us from evil,” and that’s exactly the prayer we need to be asking today, “Lord, deliver us from evil.”
Thank God, that he hears our prayers, and that we see this prayer coming true before our eyes this morning. Jesus enters the village today where this possessed man lives, and all at once the man bows down before Jesus, and a voice within him, the voice of evil, screams out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus Son of the Most High God?” Did you catch that? Even the demons know who Jesus is! We don’t always know who he is—people today are often confused about Jesus–but even the demons know he is the Son of God, and when the Son of God shows up, the devil begins to get scared, and he ought to! As Martin Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress says about “the old satanic foe who has sworn to work us woe,” “one little word subdues him,” the little word, “Jesus”.
Then notice what Jesus does: he asks the man for his name. He sees that someone is there, beyond the hurt, beyond the fear, beyond the evil. But he can’t even speak, and so the demons answer back, “Legion,” legion, a military word for a group of 6,000 Roman soldiers, we’d say an “Army of Darkness”, for now the man isn’t there anymore. Sometimes when people around us suffer, or when we ourselves are attacked, it feels like whoever we are has been taken away, doesn’t it, like we don’t have a name that’s ours anymore? “What’s your name?” “Cancer.” “What’s your name?” “Grief.” “What’s your name?” “Depression.”
But now Jesus has them by the tail, and they beg him not to send them back to where they came from, the devil doesn’t like hell, because it is a world sealed off from the presence of God, or rather, it’s a world where the love of God is pure torture to those who have rejected it. Christ overpowering this legion of demons is a foretaste of Christ destroying the power of the evil one, “for by his death he has destroyed death,” and by his descending into hell he has beaten and vanquished hell and destroyed the power of the devil, and so to prepare these demons for their eventual destruction Jesus lets them go into a herd of ritually unclean pigs, which fall off a cliff and die, back to hell where they came from, a moment of Jewish humor to see demons and pigs destroyed together, which is also why Christians today may eat deviled ham sandwiches!
But then look: what’s left, except just the man. The man who used to have a demon. Just the man sitting at the feet of Jesus. Clothed. And in his right mind. No longer naked, helpless, but clothed, protected, kneeling at Jesus’ feet, in his right mind.
St. Paul tells us that every one of us who has been baptized has been clothed with Christ. Isn’t that the case, the old is gone, we’re no longer defined by what used to be, or what has happened to us, or how we’ve suffered attack, or defined by any kind of identity you could check on a box, but Paul says, now you’re one, you are one, united in Christ Jesus together, and clothed in him. Each one of you, has been wrapped in Christ, clothed in him out of love, you’ve gone from being naked, wounded, and out of your mind, to being wrapped in him, clothed in his grace, your mind made right by his love, swaddled up like a newborn baby is swaddled, content and trusting like a newborn who knows she’s loved and will be cared for, covered from head to toe in Christ, in his love for you, him covering every square inch of you so that the evil one will have no power over you.
How do you ever pay back such a gift? How could the man healed of the demon thank Jesus enough, how do you and I show our thanks, that our sickness, our sins, our mental illness, that nothing else in this world has the last word for us except his love? Jesus says to the man, says to you and me this morning, “Go home, return back home, and tell how much God has done for you.” Maybe that’s all you need to do this morning. Nothing. Except to share in your life, your family, your job, with your friends, with those you love, in your neighborhood, in word and in deed, how much God has done for you. Loving you. Delivering you from evil. And clothing you with his Son, covering you from head to toe in the love of Christ.
So the man got up from kneeling at the feet of Jesus, and went proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
As you leave this altar in a moment, you too, go back home and tell. Clothed and wrapped in his grace, delivered from evil, go and show, go and tell this hurting world how much God has done for you.
And the Peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.
This message from Pastor Ryan D. Mills is 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 , You can read more at : [email protected]