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Sermon - 6/23/19
2019.06.24 14:53:16

Proper 7/C [Pent. 2] (2019): 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; you were baptized into Christ, received the HS, made children of God to believe his word and acknowledge God’s spiritual warfare against Satan and heavenly “powers”. 

 

We confess our condition; in our fleshly nature we are bedeviled by Satan. Of ourselves we are unable to contend against such “powers” and the world.  Today’s Gospel gives us pause to reflect on satanic activity in this “time of the church”. 

 

We, the Baptized, gather in the church boat amid worldly chaos, Jesus establishing for us our liturgical order and calm (Lk. 8:24). Here we abide in his word anticipating our 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; avoidance is not a job description of the church militant.  Pandemonium’s reach into the world is obscene by contrast to the peace enjoyed in Christ; and yet that reach is limited. 

 

Perusal of headlines iterates secular and religious violence, ideological and venial conflicts, hatreds, greed and 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 man possessed by devils called, “Legion”. 

 

In the midst of a world in which devils still have some reach, the church does not stand in splendid isolation. We are begotten of Christ’s atoning work on the cross in his compassion for the world; when our neighbor is pricked, with Christ we bleed. 

 

Appearances suggest the world’s populace as many and the church but few. Whether counting the myriad saints from heaven’s view or the seeming handful of catholic congregations on earth, numbers at any given moment are never the issue.  In the realm of spiritual power against Satan, Jesus crucified is “the stronger man” (Mt. 12:29); he is “Christus Victor”. 

 

God in Christ has entered his world and in exorcising Satan does not leave us abandoned. St. John, provides our 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). 

 

We have our being with Christ present to his church in this epoch of his “1,000 year” reign.  If, on account of the church, Satan is inhibited from deceiving the nations, still again he has continuing reach as we await a final conflagration when all hell will be loosed from the abyss for “a little while”.  Against this horrible day, we Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, bind unto ourselves Christ and the strong name of the Trinity (LSB 604), for perseverant strength and surety of on-going saving faith.

 

Jesus, the Holy One of God, entered Gentile country of the Gerasenes, characterized by pervasive satanism. The herd of pigs in the account were intended for pagan worship; unclean pork for unclean sacrifices and unholy meals. 

 

At an earlier time God condemned Israel’s apostacy rejecting his “holiness regulations” by imitating Gentile pagan 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…” (65:3a, 4). 

 

Now on Jesus’ arrival into Gentile territory, the demoniac was first to meet Jesus. He was naked, battered and bruised being chained among tombs, a place of devil worship, and driven into the desert to be the plaything of his captors. 

 

Unlike other exorcisms Jesus engages in conversation; both with the man and the devils; initially both express the identical plea, yet Jesus responds to each differently. When the man meets Jesus, he is not thrown to the ground in 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).  Now, the question is, who was the speaker from this prostrate posture of worship?

 

It seems, both the man followed by “Legion” whose departure Jesus had already commanded (v. 29a).  Each presents the same petitionary words but from very different motivations. 

 

For the moment let’s not concern ourselves with the devilish discourse; instead we ask, what was the man saying to Jesus? Informed of Jesus’ fearsome identity, Son of the Most High God, the man speaks from his lamentable condition; he is a pagan idolater, seemingly abandoned by God, a stench in his nostrils (Isa. 65:5).  Implicitly the man has adopted a posture toward God, similar to 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). 

 

Jesus received God’s answer on the cross; deafening silence! In Christ crucified, God met-out judgment upon Jesus for the sin of all and a new purity in the new creation.  Here the demoniac begs Jesus, not for the justice his pagan ways deserve, but for mercy.  At the feet of Jesus, 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 will for releasing the Gentile man from imprisonment to thousands of howling hellions (Lk. 8:29). 

 

As long as Jesus seemed in a generous frame, the demons chime-in asking a boon, that they not be assigned to 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” kills their sacrificial pork in the Galilean abyss. 

 

St. John prophecies of the abyss into which Satan would be cast for a “1,000 years”.  It is not the Sea of Galilee; rather it is Satan’s imprisonment in these last days, distinguished from the “lake of fire” of the Last Day. 

 

In these end times the church experiences the “1,000-year” epoch of Christ’s victory by the cross in the Resurrection.  Satan has been cast into the abyss and chained so the nations are no longer deceived (Rev. 20:3) by the liar and murderer going by the sobriquet, “prince of the world”.  

 

You might inquire, how Satan’s murderous lies are countered in this time of the church? It is the work of the Spirit of Christ present with us.  The Gerasene community reacted in fear; they were helter-skelter over the power and holiness of Jesus in their midst; but the man was clothed and in his right mind, like Mary (Lk. 10:41, 42), he sat at Jesus’ feet peacefully absorbed in God’s word, a disciple like us. 

 

The Gerasenes responded to Jesus, disinviting him to return to his Jewish ministry on the west shore. Before departing, Jesus assigned the former demoniac an evangelist, to proclaim the work of God in the man’s “own house”, i.e., among the Gentiles.  His proclamation would soon result in fruit, 4,000 men from the Decapolis coming to be fed on the eastern shore of the Galilean abyss (Mk. 7:31, 8:1). 

 

The church is not promised freedom from fleshly pain, nor worldly persecution, nor spiritual wounds from Satan’s fiery darts. Rather, in the compassion of our Lord crucified and risen, we in our baptismal lives are purveyors of God’s peace; abiding in his word, witnesses of what God has done for us amid devilry and chaos in the world.  Amen.

 

pem.




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