Luke 8:26-39 (2022)

St. John, Galveston 6/19/22

Rev. Alan Taylor

 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

 

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Just prior to this morning’s reading from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus told a parable to His disciples, the Parable of the Sower. It is a well known parable, perhaps you remember it. The sower scattered the seed of the Word of God onto the ground. Being that the seed was scattered, rather than intentionally planted, it fell onto different soils. In some cases, it grew up and produced fruit. In other cases though, it was choked out by thorns and rocky soil and other such things. The parable wasn’t so much about the different soils onto which the seed fell, as it was about the various forces that work against the Word of God when it’s sown into the hearts of men. I mention the parable to you this morning, because it is somewhat integral to our understanding of the passage before us this morning, Jesus’ healing of the man that was possessed by many demons.

 

“(Jesus and His disciples had) sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When (He) had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.”

 

Needless to say the man that Jesus encountered was in rather poor straits. First of all we are told that he came from the country of the Gerasenes, which is to say, he was not a Jew, but a Gentile. Now, as unimportant as that bit of information may seem to us, it is, in fact, very important, especially to those who first heard about this miracle. As the Scriptures say elsewhere, the Gentiles were known, at least by the Jews, to be outside of the grace and the covenants of God. As the apostle says, “(they) were at (one) time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Again, this man was a Gentile, which meant, “he had no hope and he was without God in the world.” And, as if that weren’t bad enough, he was also possessed by many demons.

 

So, by any sort of objective assessment, this man didn’t represent someone who would be conducive to receiving the Word of God. In other words, if you were applying the parable of the Sower to this incident, you would likely have seen this man as representing one of the rocky soils on which the seed fell. In fact, when Jesus’ passed by, it was the demon who spoke for the man, saying he wanted nothing to do with Jesus. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.”

 

So, he didn’t seem to be fertile soil on which the seed of God’s word could take root. In some ways, this man represents people we’ve all known in our lives at one time or another. Oh, not so much that he was a Gentile who was possessed with demons, but because his chances of salvation, of the seed of God’s word bearing fruit in his life seemed pretty remote and unlikely. We might have this person in our families, among our co-workers and even among our long-time friends. He’s the lost sheep, if you will. The prodigal.

 

An objective assessment would say, this person, for whatever reason, is way past the grace and mercy of God. Maybe it’s simply a matter of time. They’re getting on up there in years and nothing seems to have brought them around so that they would see and desire the grace and mercy and forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus. Time is running out for them. And hope is running short too. They are, at least in their current state, “without hope and without God in the world.” 

 

There is a story about a mother who had one such person in her life. In her case, it was her son. Though she was a devout Christian, her son spent his days apart from God, disregarding, as it were, any of God’s counsel and guidance. Later in life, her son reflected on his life’s journey. “Wretch that I am (he said), do I dare to say that you, my God, were silent when in reality I was traveling farther from you? Was it in this sense that you kept silence to me? Then whose words were they but yours which you were chanting in my ears through my mother, your faithful servant? But nothing of that went down into my heart to issue in action.” Throughout her son’s life, Mom prayed, and she prayed. In fact, she prayed for 17 years for her son’s salvation, for him to come to faith in Christ.

 

In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus cast the demons out of this man, this Gentile. It was likely a miracle that no one expected to come to this man’s life. And, “when the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then 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 Jesus clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.”

 

The miracle demonstrates that Jesus mercifully exercises power over all forces, be they great or small, that would render the seed of His word ineffective. The grace of God in Christ Jesus and the power of God’s word is the reason the sower sows the seed. The worthiness, or unworthiness, as it were, of those on whom the seed falls is not what determines the fruitfulness of the seed. Dr. Art Just, a former professor of mine and author of the Concordia Commentary for Luke’s Gospel, says of this miracle, “Let the seed take root in the hearer, producing confident faith: Jesus is the one sent from God to bring salvation to all people, and when the church proclaims his words and his deeds, the “Son of God the Most High” rolls back the reign of demons and ushers in God’s kingdom.”

 

And so, the seed of the word is sown, and it is the seed itself that turns unfertile soil into fertile soil, that it might produce fruit to the glory of God. If is for us, of course, to be mindful of the things that seek to render the seed fruitless. Ultimately though, Christ Himself is the author and the finisher of our faith, even of the faith those who are no yet  believing, but who are upon our hearts and minds this morning.

 

The man I mentioned earlier, whose mother prayed for so long for his salvation, did finally come to faith in Jesus. His given name was Aurelius, most of the world though knows him as St. Augustine, one of the greatest bishops and theologians the Church has ever known. His mother, Monica, prayed for his salvation for 17 years. And then, having come to faith in Christ, he wrote of those who seem to be outside of the grace of God, those whom we would be tempted to lose hope over. He spoke of the power of God’s word that finally turns the unwilling into the willing. “Man (he said to God), a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being ‘bearing his mortality with him’ (2 Cor. 4: 10), carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you ‘resist the proud’ (1 Pet. 5: 5). Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

 

The man that Jesus cleansed was so touched by His mercy and kindness that he wanted to follow Him. In fact, he begged that he might follow Jesus. But Jesus “sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And with that he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” The one transformed by the seed of the word becomes the sower. And there is someone, unlikely as it may seem, on whom that seed will fall who will be transformed, who will be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son in whom there is redemption, even the forgiveness of sins. And so, we keep sowing the seed and our hope remains in the One who makes it grow.

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

+ Soli Deo Gloria +