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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 8:26–39

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 5, Proper 7, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jun 19, 2016 

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A brother pastor has pointed out that this sermon indicates that all unbelievers are demon possessed like the Garasene demoniac.  After a review of the sermon, I am forced to agree.  The proper thing to say is what I quoted in the sermon from the order of baptism in Lutheran Service Book: The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. (LSB 268) In this sermon, I failed to discern the difference between being under the power of the devil and being demon possessed.

I will leave this sermon here so that others may learn from my error.

Anyone who wishes to borrow this sermon should take care to edit it so that it indicates that while the demon possessed are unbelievers who are under the power of the devil, not all those who are under the power of the devil are demon possessed.

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Todays Gospel exposes us to the mysterious topic of demon possession.  Many people get frustrated when the Bible covers the topic of demons because it does not tell us everything that we would want to know about this topic.  God, in His infinite knowledge and perfect wisdom has lovingly told us what we need to know about this topic, but our human curiosity wants to know more and our sinful imaginations often fill in the blanks with dangerous ignorance.  So, when we deal with this topic, it is a good idea to take a few minutes discerning what the Bible does and does not teach about demons?

During one of Jesus debates with the Jewish leaders.  Jesus said, [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) When Jesus described the judgment on the Last Day, He spoke of the judgment of those who reject Him.  Then [the Son of Man] will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) Peter warned us with these words: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Demons were not always evil.  Moses account of creation includes these words: God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31) We do not know the exact day on which God created the angels, but these words teach us that all the angels were good at the end of the sixth day.  This means that the angels who followed the devil were still good at the end of Day Six, but that they rebelled at a later time.

So here is what we know from the Bible.  Sometime during the six days of creation, God created an uncountable number of spiritual beings called angels.  When God created them, they were all good or holy.  Shortly afterwards, a group of these angels led by an angel named Satan rebelled and became evil.  The demons are these evil angels who rebelled.  We also refer to these evil angels as devils.  We refer to their leader, Satan, as the devil.

God created hell to be an eternal prison for these evil angels.  None of the evil angels, not even Satan has any authority whatsoever in hell.  They are already condemned to this eternity and they have no hope whatsoever.

All that there is for these demons is their hatred toward God.  Since these evil angels have no chance against God directly, their only chance for revenge against God is to attack those whom God loves you and me.  Their goal is to seduce human beings into joining them in the eternal prison of hell.  [God our Savior] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:34) Therefore, the demons want just the opposite.  They want people to believe a lie and be damned.

Todays Gospel teaches us one more thing.  In spite of their rebellion in spite of their power in spite of their hatred Jesus is still their Creator and Lord.  They have no choice but to obey His Word.  The text states that, even though chains could not hold them, they still had to obey Jesus.  The text states that they were legion which is a Roman military unit of between four and six thousand soldiers.  Even so, all six thousand of them must obey Jesus.

Jesus and His disciples had just landed in Gentile territory there was a herd of pigs in the area.  Jesus gave permission for the demons to enter the pigs and they promptly drove the pigs into the Sea.  The human victim of these demons was now demon free.

Now that this man is demon free, Luke turns our attention to the other people in the area.  The pig herders do what you might expect them to do after witnessing a herd of pigs stampede into the lake.  When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. (Luke 8:34) When the people heard the news they went out to check on Jesus.  The reaction of the people gives us more insight into the difference between people who are saved and people who are still demon possessed.

35Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. (Luke 8:35) The man who was now saved was sitting at Jesus feet.  This is a figure of speech that meant he was listening as Jesus taught.  The natural response to the freedom that Jesus gives is to learn from Him.  During the time that it took for the swine herds to get back to the city and return with reinforcements, the man who was now free of demons had several hours of Bible class with Jesus.  He could not get enough of Jesus.  He wanted to go with Him when He returned across the lake.

Now, when Jesus performed one of these healing miracles on the Jewish side of the lake, they began to praise God.  Everyone in the area began bringing their sick friends and relatives to Jesus for healing.  The people on the Gentile side of the lake were different.  They did not have the training or the background to see this healing as a blessing from God.  Instead, they were terrified of Jesus.  Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. (Luke 8:37) They were afraid that Jesus might use His power against them.  They saw Jesus as a problem not as a savior.

Jesus complied with the peoples wishes.  He left, but He left a missionary behind.  There was a reason Jesus spent so much time teaching the man who was now demon free.  38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:3839) When Jesus arrived, this man was full of demons.  When Jesus left, this man was a missionary to the people on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.  The fact that the other people on that side of the lake were afraid of Jesus indicates that they were also demon possessed.  Their form of demon possession was simply not as spectacular as it had been in this man.

In Eden, the devil used a serpent to tempt Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.  Mankind fell to that temptation.  From that time on, every human being inherits a sinful nature at conception as the Holy Spirit inspired David to write, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5) The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to Gods law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:78)

In The Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther wrote of the will of the devil and he wrote of the will of God.  He said that the human will is placed between the two [wills] like a beast of burden. If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills, as the psalm says: I am become as a beast [before thee] and I am always with thee [Ps. 73:22 f.]. If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.  The human being is always possessed by a spirit.  The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. (LSB 268) Because we humans pass our sinful nature down from generation to generation, demon possession is our natural state.  We are by nature sinful and unclean.  Instead of loving God with all our mind, soul, and strength, we love ourselves.  Every human being by nature is terrified of God, resists him, and fears him.  Our lives apart from God show that we are a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; (Isaiah 65:2) The devils control over us at birth may not be as spectacular as the man in todays Gospel, but we all enter this world at odds with God and slaves to sin.

There is only one person who defeated the devil.  That person is Jesus Christ, crucified for the forgiveness of all sins and raised from the dead.  Jesus and Jesus alone is the only person who endured every temptation that the devil could throw His way and yet, never sinned.  Jesus and Jesus alone endured the forsakenness of hell for us as He died on a cross for our sins.  Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of all sins and raised from the dead the only person to defeat the devil that same Jesus Christ offers His victory to us.

Demons dont always identify themselves by driving pigs into a lake.  Sometimes they inhabit people who look like best friends or grandmas and grandpas.  They inhabit people who look respectable on the outside and seem very nice.  Just like dangerous strangers tempt children with candy, demon possessed people tempt us with all the things we like.  It is their goal to make us feel very comfortable and even righteous while traveling the path to hell.

The real lesson that we can take away from todays Gospel is that Jesus is the one who exposes demons and deals with them.  The same Jesus Christ who demonstrated His power over demons in todays Gospel has defeated the devil once and for all on the cross.  Trust in Him.  Trust in His holy life, His innocent suffering and death, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven.  He is the only one who can protect you from the attacks of the devil.  He is the only one who can give you life everlasting.  Trust in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  May the Holy Spirit possess you and give you the faith that leads to life everlasting.  Amen

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