Jesus Exercises His Authority
[Luke chapter 8, verses 22-39 (part 2 of 3)]
Today as we continue our ongoing series on the writings of the apostle Luke, we move on to the middle part of chapter 8 of his account of the Gospel. As you recall from last week’s study, Jesus had just stated to those whom his family had sent that his “mother and brothers” were anyone who “hears God’s Word and puts it into practice”. As Luke’s gospel moves on from that account, today we find ourselves at the story of Jesus calming the storm. I have heard a fair number of sermons already on this story, and I’m sure you have too, which is why I’m going to tell this story a little differently in order to apply it to modern life. So open your Bibles or navigate on your portable devices of choice to Luke’s gospel chapter 8, beginning at verse 22.
“One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s go over to the other side of the lake’. So they got into a boat and set out. 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. 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. ‘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’.” (Luke 8, verses 22-25)
Verse 22 and the first part of 23 bear a stark contrast between our Savior’s management style and that of the corporate world here in the early 21st century. Today’s workplace has the worker practically married to their jobs. Workers are routinely on call 24/7, but without any additional compensation beyond work-related expense reimbursement. They carry their ‘smart phones’, tablets and portable PC’s with them everywhere they go. Many have their digital devices in the bedroom with them when they sleep, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people actually have their devices in bed with them. Contrast all this with Christ, the leader of the 12 apostles and the founder of Christianity who, during the height of the storm in the middle of the day, was asleep! Any modern-day corporate manager would have viewed that situation as Jesus being asleep on the job, and would have fired Jesus on the spot! President Donald Trump would have, too!
“He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’, he asked his disciples.” To say this in modern terms, ‘What’s wrong, are you afraid of a little storm?’, Jesus was saying to his disciples. ‘All you guys had to do was to awaken me and inform me of the situation, and I would have handled it’, he was saying to his undoubtedly stunned apostles. ‘Next time, awaken me sooner until waiting until the last moment!’, Jesus probably said to them, and with a little exasperation at that. “In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Who is this indeed! Jesus exercises his authority over the storm because it had been delegated to him by his heavenly Father. That is why Jesus rebuked the apostles the way he did! It was because they did not yet recognize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God! Having finished pointing those things out, let’s move on to part 2 of our study, beginning at verse 26.
“They sailed to the region of the Gerasines, which is across the lake from Galilee. 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. 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!’ For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it seized him, and though he was chained underfoot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven into solitary places. Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion’, he replied, for many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.” (Luke 8, verses 26-21)
The “region of Gerasines” mentioned in verse 26 is also spelled, “Gadarenes” or “Gergesines” in other Biblical translations, but they are all talking about the same place. So the apostles, who were fishermen by trade and so were right at home in a sailing boat, put the boat ashore and the first person who comes and greets them is a demon-possessed man. This poor individual was clearly in pathetic shape from a medical and psychiatric standpoint, and was often tortured by the combination of demon possession and mental illness that befell him. It was at best an uncomfortable situation for the Twelve, so I can visualize them hanging back to watch and see what Jesus would do about the man, but also to step in and protect him if things got out of hand. Unbeknownst to them, that would not be necessary because Jesus is the Son of God, and we just saw that the apostles did not yet recognize this fact. Jesus was protected by the Holy Spirit and he was covered by divine reinforcement!
“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!’ For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man.” How did that man know who Jesus was? I have seen and heard a number of different explanations of this, but it basically comes down to the fact that it was the demon inside the man, rather than the man himself, who ascertained Jesus’ true identity. The man himself undoubtedly was severely handicapped by limited comprehension, a distorted sense of reality and a broken spirit. “Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion’, he replied, for many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.” So what is the “Abyss”? What was Luke talking about here? This translates into modern English as hell. This is not the only place in the Bible where hell is mentioned, but this is ample proof to quiet the skeptics who question whether hell really exists or not. Jesus, who is the Son of God, cannot tell a lie! So, if his apostle Luke mentions hell by name, then there really is such a place. Those who refuse to believe in hell – or heaven for that matter – do so at their own risk. Having said that, let’s now conclude our study, beginning at verse 32.
“A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank and was drowned. When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom demons had come out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, for they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell them how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8, verses 32-39)
So when the demons went into the pigs, the pigs did the equivalent of committing suicide. But since the herd of pigs was the livelihood of at least some of the town’s people, they were really upset with Jesus. Their livelihoods had been destroyed. What’s our lesson here? Jesus doesn’t care about anybody’s economies! It’s not that he wants us all to be poor, but he doesn’t want us all to be rich, either. It’s the same as when churches over-emphasize tithing! Christianity and following Christ are all about our service to others. The money aspects of ministry, while too important to be ignored, are a side-issue and besides the point when it comes to bringing genuine ministry to the people. And what do I mean by genuine ministry? It means to live one’s faith as a lifestyle, not merely as a set of beliefs and values. It also means to keep on serving even when the money isn’t there. In Christian ministry, the true servants of the Lord press on even without resources.
“When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom demons had come out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, for they were overcome with fear.” So here come the town’s people to see the man who had destroyed their herd of pigs. When they see the formerly demon-possessed man seated at Jesus’ feet, instead of being inspired and joyful at the sight of his healing, they are gripped with fear. Between the loss of their herd of pigs and the healing of a man they likely used to laugh at and make fun of, it was all too much for their limited minds to handle. They wanted their herd of swine and the income it generated more than they loved the Son of God’s healing presence. They loved money and success more than they loved Jesus. No wonder Jesus left them!
But before he did, he gave some final instructions to the man he had just healed. “The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell them how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” Notice here that the first thing the man who Jesus healed wanted to do was become an apostle like the other 12 men who witnessed all this. ‘If you want to be an apostle’, Jesus told him (I’m paraphrasing here), ‘go back and be a witness for me to the people of that town’. I’m sure he did a very convincing job of it too. But there’s one last thing that bears mentioning here. Jesus and the apostles left for the other side of the lake looking for people to minister to. All they found was one crazed man, and he was healed. None of the townspeople were healed. Not a single one, and they had all been nearly drowned in a storm on the lake while crossing over to the other side. All that for just one man, but Jesus apparently still considered his journey a success. This tells me that God sees success in entirely different terms than humankind does. With Jesus, success is measured in quality, not quantity. So if we all start measuring our success in those terms, it will by default make us more Christ-like. So let’s all begin to be more like Him by seeing things in his terms instead of our own. Because, when we do that, “we have the mind of Christ.”