December 14, 2017

Sunday’s Gospel: Teaching One Another

By Chaplain Mike

On Sundays, we hear the Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Sometimes, I share a message based upon this text. On other weeks, I ask you to share your observations so that our readers can be edified. Today, we’ll be teaching one another again.

Please remember the one main rule:

My only request is that you be as brief as possible. Don’t think you have to do a full Bible study or sermon for us here. Give us one or two pertinent points from the Biblical passage that you think would be edifying to the iMonk community.

Today’s Gospel text is: Luke 8:26-39.

Introduction
Today is the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 8:26-39. This passage describes how Jesus cast a multitude of demons out of a pathetic man known as “the Gerasene demoniac.”

Ask the Spirit to teach you, focus on Jesus, think about the meaning of the passage, meditate on its implications, and share a few thoughts with us.

Luke 8:26-39 (J.B. Phillips NT)

8:26-28 – They sailed on to the country of the Gerasenes which is on the opposite side of the lake to Galilee. And as Jesus disembarked, a man from the town who was possessed by evil spirits met him. He had worn no clothes for a long time and did not live inside a house, but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he let out a howl and fell down in front of him, yelling, “What have you got to do with me, you Jesus, Son of the most high God? Please, please, don’t torment me.”

8:29 – For Jesus was commanding the evil spirit to come out of the man. Again and again the evil spirit had taken control of him, and though he was bound with chains and fetters and closely watched, he would snap his bonds and go off into the desert with the devil at his heels.

8:30-37 – Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion!” he replied. For many evil spirits had gone into him, and were now begging Jesus not to order them off to the bottomless pit. It happened that there was a large herd of pigs feeding on the hill-side, so they implored him to allow them to go into the pigs, and he let them go. And when the evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs, the whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and were drowned. When the swineherds saw what had happened, they took to their heels, pouring out the story to the people in the town and countryside. These people came out to see what had happened, and approached Jesus. They found the man, whom the evil spirits had left, sitting down at Jesus’ feet, properly clothed and quite sane. That frightened them. Those who had seen it told the others how the man with the evil spirits had been cured. And the whole crowd of people from the district surrounding the Gerasenes’ country begged Jesus to go away from them, for they were thoroughly frightened. Then he re-embarked on the boat and turned back.

8:38-39 – The man who had the evil spirits kept begging to go with Jesus, but he sent him away with the words, “Go back home and tell them all what wonderful things God has done for you.” So the man went away and told the marvellous story of what Jesus had done for him, all over the town.

Now it’s time for us to “teach one another.”

  • What do you observe in this passage?
  • What do you interpret its message to be for those who read it?
  • How might we apply the message of this passage to the life of the church today?
  • Most importantly, what does it tell us about Jesus?

Comments

  1. Steve Newell says:

    Are we all mostly like the people of the region? We don’t like the Jesus who impacts our lifestyle. How often we fail to obey the Law by not loving our neighbor as our selves? For each of us, we have different a “demon possessed man” in our lives and we have our own “pigs” who we value more than a person who needs to healing of the Gospel of Christ.

  2. This passage was part of the message this morning at our church. We have been walking through a series on healing. Jason Jackson, a professor of Hebrew at Asbury Seminary and former staff pastor for our church, brought the message today on how Jesus healed this man in order to restore him to his family and his community. That is the hope of our healing–restoration into society, into family. Most importantly, restoration into our Father’s house. (See John 14:1-3.)

    Jesus healed for one reason alone: Restoration with Him. We must remember this as we seek healing for ourselves and for others. Will this healing lead to relationship with the Healer?

  3. Teaches two things to me:

    1. The power of Jesus. i.e. He is the all-powerful Creator who has control over everything.
    2. Like Jeff said above, it teaches of his restoration to who we are meant to be. It’s an example of the Eden which we were made for (it’s not Eden, but it’s a living example…I think you all get what I’m saying)

  4. Presumably, if the people on the other side of the lake were keeping pigs, they weren’t considered observant Jews. Are we talking people like the Samaritans?

    So here we have:

    (1) the reality of supernatural evil. Yes, I’ve heard the possession being explained as mental illness and I’m not going to get into that argument. Demons exist.

    (2) how truly scary it is to come face-to-face with the reality of God. More scary even than the devil. The people were able to handle the possessed man running around naked and howling amongst the tombs, but seeing him clothed and in his right mind sitting at the feet of Jesus frightened them.

    (3) Even those we do not approve of, those who are ritually impure or not living according to our rules, are the children of God.

  5. The presence of pigs, the dead, and a madman were all underlining the fact that this place was unclean, ritually and socially (so to speak). People and things that we don’t want to see or deal with — because they give us the creeps — are often pushed to the outskirts of the normal social order.

    In my town (lovely little place, closest thing yet to Mayberry), the county owns land outside of town, and on it they house the welfare department, the county nursing home, and the school for retarded children. They were thinking about transferring the county jail down to that land too. My sister, who does not sweeten her tongue when outraged, once said to me, “Well, we’ve got the poor folks, the old folks, and the retarded folks stuck out there. Now just add the bad folks and put up a big neon sign saying “County Dump!”

    Jesus walks in to the midst of the marginalized, the unwanted and unclean, and transforms the scene. He gives the marginalized man back his dignity and sanity, and he sends him as the first missionary to the Gentiles (I got that from the sermon this morning).

    Just an aside: Maybe it was terror of God that made the Gerasenes so adamant about telling Jesus to leave. But maybe (says she cynically) it was the money thing too. Pigs are expensive. How do you think any of us would react today if we were told “OK, this poor crazy person that you’ve seen around town all your life can be cured. But it’s going to cost you every penny you have.” If the man is truly our brother in Christ, we shouldn’t hesitate a minute to say, “Go for it.” But if we are just the ordinary humans that we are…

  6. Rick Ro. says:

    Here are a few things I’ve always gotten out of this story:

    1) Even demons recognize who Jesus is/was. The possessed man says, “What have you got to do with me, you Jesus, Son of the most high God? Please, please, don’t torment me.”

    This tells me that a KNOWLEDGE of Jesus means nothing. Just saying, “I know you, Jesus…you are the Son of the most high God” doesn’t make you a Christian. What matters to God and what makes you Christian is what you DO with that knowledge. Does that knowledge lead to a belief that compels you to confess Him as Lord AND savior? Does it compel you to live a changed life, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love God and begin a relationship with Him? Or are you just going to continue to live as demons live, with KNOWLEDGE, but no relationship; with KNOWLEDGE, but no faith?

    2) People living in darkness can feel intense conviction and fear when faced with truth and light. I think that is one thing I get out of the second part of Legion’s statement: “Please, please, don’t torment me!” I think this is illuminates why some non-believers react so strongly against believers, especially ones who are more bold in their witnessing. Coming face-to-face with who Jesus is might be a torment to those fearful of change, of losing freedom, and of acknowledging there is a God.

    3) The power of Jesus can compel even the most vile of spirits to tell the truth. “Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion!’ he replied.”

    Now I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that if Legion knew who Jesus was and what He had the power to do, he/they would’ve skirted around telling Him exactly who he/they were. Why did they tell Him who they were? I think Jesus’ question compelled them to answer truthfully. Evil is strong, but Jesus is Lord.

    3) “And the whole crowd of people from the district surrounding the Gerasenes’ country begged Jesus to go away from them, for they were thoroughly frightened.”

    I think we ALL have the tendency to focus on the physical and material world, to the detriment of the spiritual. Instead of praising God for what Jesus did here (shouldn’t they have celebrated that this man had been saved from his demon-possession), they get all upset about Jesus ruining their profession. Their focus is on the wrong thing.

    Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you all that I wouldn’t have gotten upset about having my profession run into the sea and die, but that is the message I get out of this: that I need to focus on other people’s salvation OVER my own physical and material well-being. Easier said than done, I must admit, but many of Jesus’ teachings are easier said than done. That’s why I need His help.

    4) “The man who had the evil spirits kept begging to go with Jesus, but he sent him away with the words, ‘Go back home and tell them all what wonderful things God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told the marvellous story of what Jesus had done for him, all over the town.”

    Up to this point in His ministry (usually with Jews), Jesus has told those He has healed NOT to go spread the wonderful news, knowing that such proclamation would bring about the end of His ministry. But here we have (I think the first) time that Jesus actually COMMANDS someone to go and spread the Good News. There’s something cool about that, I think. The lesson could be: there is a time to be quiet, but there is also a time to proclaim.

  7. Jesus risks life and limb (other gospel accounts places this story immediately after calming the storm), all to save this one single guy in this land. Jesus was never too busy to go out of the way, even for one lost sheep who was lower than dirt to the rest of society.

  8. It represents the earthly ministry of Jesus in a nutshell: he enters the land of the dead, he dispels the evil spirits by his authority, he restores the lost and forsaken, the spectators ask him to please go away they don’t like what he’s doing, the restored begs to go with him but he says not yet go home and tell, then he leaves. End of gospel.

  9. B. L. Zebub. says:

    I suppose the name “Legion” was not accidental, but I wonder whose political point is being made–the demoniac’s? The gospel writer’s? Some unknown link in the process of oral transmission? This is a little weird (literally “demonizing” the Roman occupation) because elsewhere, the gospels go out of their way to show that Jesus and Christianity were not fundamentally in conflict with Rome, that Jesus’s execution was some kind of tragic misunderstanding.

  10. 1) Jesus cleanses and heals, even (perhaps especially) the most unclean and marginalized. That’s is, us. To accomplish this, He goes to places the most religious people of his day probably wouldn’t. (radical love)
    2) Thosewho have been cleansed and healed sit at his feet .(devotion)
    3) But they/we don’t stay there; instead, we are sent back into our communities to be agents and ambassadors of the good news of what Jesus has done. (radical love again, and the cycle continues)

  11. A couple comments have already brushed against this point, but studying the passage recently, I was struck most sharply by the reaction of the Gerasenes: “get out of here, because you ruined our livelihood.”

    And the fact that, Jesus actively, intentionally ruined their livelihood, TO REVEAL to them that they in fact loved their source of wealth more than the Son of Man himself. Decision made: Jesus drew the line in the sand, they crossed it. We don’t like you because you threaten our security, please leave.

    That this is a fundamental aspect of Jesus’ ministry, included his ministry to us as the Church today, gets brushed aside because it’s uncomfortable. We don’t really want it revealed that our intentions, with respect to money and other areas, are at war with God’s intentions. Richard Wilbur has a poem I love on the passage:

    Matthew VIII, 28 ff.

    Rabbi, we Gadarenes
    Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
    Love, as You call it, we obviate by means
    Of the planned release of aggressions.

    We have deep faith in prosperity.
    Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
    In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
    Is palpably non-essential.

    It is true that we go insane;
    That for no good reason we are possessed by devils;
    That we suffer, despite the amenities which obtain
    At all but the lowest levels.

    We shall not, however, resign
    Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
    If You cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
    We had rather You shoved off.

  12. SearchingAnglican says:

    For me, the most interesting/applicable part of this week’s Gospel reading is the response of the Gerasenes. After witnessing Jesus’ power and the beggar’s life utterly transformed, the people were frightened and asked Jesus to leave. Hmmm. From our distance, it’s easy to say how crazy or blind or fearful they are….but in truth, how different are they from us?

    It comes down to ONE question for me…why is transformation so darn scary?

    Many pray for a dramatic sign of not only God’s presence, but his power. For deliverance, for healing, for a sign as obvious as the burning bush. I have to wonder, what would we do if we actually saw such a demonstration of his power and might in church some Sunday? Would the result be transformation or fear?

    It’s easy to say “transformation”, but in my experience, fear often feels safer. It’s easier to be safe, rather than taking that next step in our Christian journey (whether individually or as a church community), to experience Christ’s abundant love more fully and grow in closer relationship with Him. The apparent joy and peace and power testified to throughout Acts and the Epistles seems riskier than the life we have.

    Why is that?

    Because the Way, the Truth and the Life changes us at our core. It must. And change is hard, even when it’s Good.