Ps. 3; Isaiah 65:1-9; Galatians 3:23—4:7; Luke 8:26-39.
Cried-out, [W]hen [the demoniac] saw Jesus, he cried-out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you not to torment me” (v. 28).
Do you believe demons exist? I expect so; as baptized children of God you received the HS to believe his word, acknowledging God’s warfare against Satan and heavenly “powers”.
We confess we are bedeviled by Satan in our fleshly nature. Of ourselves we are unable to contend against such “powers” in the world. Today’s Gospel gives us pause to reflect on satanic activity in this “time of the church”.
We gather in the church amid the world’s chaos; here Jesus establishes liturgical order and calm (Lk. 8:24). Here we abide in his word anticipating a sacramental meal for unity and peace with brothers, sisters, and God.
From our position of peace in forgiveness of sins, we look out onto the world. Even if we wanted to avoid the world, we could not; conflict avoidance is not the church militant’s job description. Pandemonium’s reach into the world is obscene; yet its reach is limited.
Perusal of headlines iterates secular and religious violence, ideological and venial conflicts, hatreds, greed, manipulation, stupidity, incompetence, vanity, sexual abuses and an unending train of sin’s victims shunted about as so much debris. Today’s Scripture personifies all this and worse by the demoniac possessed by a multiplicity of devils calling themselves, “Legion”.
In a world where devils still have reach, the church does not stand apart in splendid isolation. We are begotten of Christ’s atoning work on the cross in God’s compassion for the world; when our neighbor is pricked, with Christ we bleed.
Appearances suggest world populace as many and the church few. Whether counting the myriad saints from heaven’s view or the handful of catholic congregations on earth, numbers at any given moment are never the prime issue, for God himself has fulfilled the command that all the earth should be filled to his glory.
In the realm of warfare against Satan, Jesus crucified is “the stronger man” (Mt. 12:29); “Christus Victor”. God has entered his world in Christ; not leaving men abandoned. St. John, provides perspective about “Legion”,
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless abyss and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while” (Rev. 20:1-3).
Christ is present to his church in his “1,000 year” reign. For the church’s sake Satan is inhibited from deceiving the nations, while we await a final conflagration when all hell will be loosed from the abyss for “a little while”. Against that horrible day, we, bind unto ourselves Christ and the strong name of the Trinity (LSB 604), for perseverant strength and surety of saving faith.
Jesus, entered the Gentile country of the Gerasenes, characterized by pervasive satanism. The herd of pigs in and about the tombs, a place of pagan worship and sacrifices, unclean pork for unholy meals.
In Isaiah’s day, God condemned Israel’s apostacy in imitating Gentile worship practices; calling them, “[A] people… offering sacrifice in the gardens… sitting among the graves… passing the nights, eating the flesh of pigs, and broth of foulness in their pots…” (Isa. 65:3a, 4).
On arrival Jesus was met by the demoniac naked, battered, bruised, chained among the tombs and driven into the desert, the plaything of his captors. Unlike Jesus’ other exorcisms he engages in dialogue; but with whom, the man or Legion? It would appear both each to a different end. The man and Legion express an identical plea; yet Jesus responds to each differently.
When the man meets Jesus, he is not thrown to the ground by demonic agitation; instead, he falls at Jesus’ feet, crying out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, do not torment me” (Lk. 8:28). The question is, who was the speaker from this posture of worship?
Again, it seems both the man and “Legion” whose departure Jesus had commanded (v. 29a). Each are presenting the same petitionary words from very different motivations.
Put aside “Legion’s” intent; what was the man asking of Jesus? Informed of Jesus’ fearsome identity as Son of God, the man speaks out of his lamentable condition; he is a pagan idolater, seemingly abandoned by a stench in the nostrils of God (Isa. 65:5). Implicitly the man adopted a posture, similar to that of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me… [look at me] I am a worm and not a man” (Ps. 22:1a, 6a).
On the cross, God’s answer to Jesus was deafening silence; meeting-out judgment for the sin of the world and purity in the new creation. Before Jesus the man begs, not for the justice his pagan ways deserved, but for mercy; the man prays for grace, “I beg you, not to torment me”, which all men deserve, and to which devils are destined.
Jesus will not torment the man; but neither is he silent (cf. Isa. 56:8). Without a cacophony of words, Jesus has already spoken the power of God’s word for releasing the demoniac from thousands of howling hellions (Lk. 8:29).
As long as Jesus seemed in a generous frame, “Legion” chimed-in to ask a boon, that they not prematurely be assigned to the end times abyss; rather into a swine herd, unclean spirits occupying unclean hosts. Jesus granted the reprieve; and in perversity to diminish Jesus and terrorize the Gerasene populace, “Legion” drowns the sacrificial pork.
St. John prophecies of the abyss into which Satan and Legion would be cast, a place of imprisonment in these last days, distinguished from the “lake of fire” on the Last Day.
The church experiences Christ’s “1,000-year” epochal reign as Resurrection victory. Satan, a liar and murderer, going by the sobriquet, “prince of the world” has been chained into the abyss that the nations are no longer deceived (Rev. 20:3).
You might inquire, how Satan’s murderous lies are countered? It is the work of the Spirit of Christ present with the Bride. The Gerasene community reacted in fear; helter-skelter over the power and holiness of Jesus in their midst; but the former demoniac was clothed, in his right mind, and Mary-like (Lk. 10:41, 42), peacefully sat at Jesus’ feet absorbing God’s word, a disciple like us.
The Gerasenes disinvited Jesus to return to his Jewish ministry across the sea. Before departing, Jesus assigned the former demoniac an evangelist, to proclaim the work of God in his “own house”, i.e., among the Gentiles. His proclamation soon would result in feeding 4,000 from the Gentile Decapolis (Mk. 7:31, 8:1).
The church is not promised freedom from pain, nor worldly persecution, nor spiritual wounds from Satan’s fiery darts. Rather, as the former demoniac we are enlisted purveyors of God’s peace; abiding in his word, witnesses of what God has done for us amid devilry and a chaotic world. Amen.