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Notes on Sermon preached at PCF 22 May 2011
The story of that we have in this passage is so far from the experience of the ordinary person, and indeed the ordinary church, that there needs to be some background given first.
• Some Undisputed History
• Rebellion in heaven
The angels are created beings just like us, spiritual rather than physical beings they have wills, and were created to live with God and to serve him. It seems that at some point there was a rebellion against God, led by one of the most powerful beings, Lucifer (Satan, the Devil). Lucifer and his fallen angels were expelled from heaven and sentence passed on them, which is still to be carried out
• Battle on Earth
Jesus said that he had seen Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Satan and his hosts made planet earth the centre of their operations and, persuading Adam to rebel also, took control of the planet. The fallen angels (demons) since then have been seducing individuals away from God and often taking up residence inside them (which is what we see in the case of this poor man here).
From the fall until the appearance of Jesus, Satan and his host had things pretty much their own way. But with the appearance of Jesus on the scene the tide had begun to turn. From that day until this every person who is a following of Jesus find themselves in deadly combat with the Prince of Darkness. It is the experience of every Christian that we are in a battle.
• Victory Assured
Although the battle still rages, there is an assurance that Jesus has won the decisive victory. It is yet to be implemented in full but is inevitable. The final victory of Jesus is prefigured in this triumph over the demonic. Jesus is Lord of All!
• Some Unsatisfactory Positions
Liberal theologians will dismiss what happens here as mental illness. The word of God does not allow us to do that. Jesus believed in the demonic and so must we.
On the other hand we must be obsessive about it either. Most of our problems are problems of the flesh, and, whilst they involve battle with thee demonic are not a consequence of possession.
• Some Unhelpful Attitudes
The demons fear us far more than we fear them The attitude of the demon in the story to Jesus is terror, they are still terrified of Jesus and of all who bear his name.
On the other hand we would do well to have a healthy respect for angelic beings, even fallen ones. Casualness about such beings is totally inappropriate.
With this background in place we turn to the text.
1. The Certainty of Opposition
It is a certainty that anyone who wants to follow Jesus will face opposition. The storm (provoked by the enemy) was designed to prevent them going there to do God’s purposes, and as soon as Jesus lands he is confronted by the enemy. Every believer has to understand that they may expect conflict whenever they start to serve God.
2. The Certainty of Jesus’ Authority
The terrible state of this man indicates that he was thoroughly demonised. It is clear that not only did the demon recognise who he was dealing with; he also recognised that its fate was sealed. This should give us enormous confidence as we come up against the enemy.
And Jesus was able to deal with the demon with a word! Most of our difficulties are not demonic, but they can all be dealt with by Jesus with a word.
Note that the demon brought destruction upon itself and upon those around it. This is always the end result of sin. When we dabble with sin, we are entering into a path that ends in destruction. Don’t dabble with the enemy.
Who knows what road had brought this man to the place where he was thoroughly demonised. But the fact is that wherever we are Jesus can help us with a word. There is no problem that is outside the help of God.
3. The Certainty of Challenge
Whenever Jesus works there is challenge! The residents of the region should have been delighted at the miraculous healing of this man. Instead they are horrified! Why?
Just as the disciples were in the previous passage, the reality of an encounter with Jesus always provokes fear. To be in the presence of the Lord of the universe is not a casual thing. But the suggestion here is that there was a realisation that if Jesus is Lord of the universe – then he may wish to be Lord of my life as well! The incident with the pigs is significant here too. As the pigs were destroyed by evil (showing the destructive effect that evil always has) the residents realised that the economy of the region – their way of making money- was gone. This is the last thing they wanted. Jesus was not welcome if he upset their wealth. The following sentence in one of the saddest on the gospel of Luke. Jesus got into the boat and left. He will not outstay his welcome. If we don’t want Him, he will leave.
4. The Certainty of Commission
Finally, there is a challenge for the healed man. What he wants now is nothing more than just to be with Jesus. This is totally understandable. His has been a terrible life and he can’t wait to escape from its surroundings. But Jesus sends him back into his surroundings to testify of God’s saving love. Are we up for the challenge – to tell the world what God has done for us? The mission field starts at the door of the church.