Summary: Jesus has the power to overcome any obstacle for people to come to Him and to be in His family. Therefore we should trust His power and be pro-active in sharing the Gospel.
Luke 8:26-39 “Madman Turned Missionary”
What does it mean to be mission minded? Let’s have a look at a passage from Scripture.
Luke 8:26-39 (read)
To understand what is happening here we first need to realise that, in the culture of Jesus’ day much power was attached to names.
Wars were fought in the name of particular “gods”. Victory in war meant the name of your “god” was more powerful then the “god” of your defeated enemy.
Name-dropping was an art – people gave you respect if you knew important citizens.
Even Christians got caught up in the trend. Remember that passage in 1 Corinthians 1:12, One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ”. Above everything else it was a name-dropping exercise which was causing division in the church.
Such an understanding of the culture helps us see the true nature of this passage – this is a confrontation of names. Kind of like a boxing match ... but different.
In one corner we have Legion. Legion was a legend.
He emerged from the tombs and would terrorise anyone coming to or from the lake – a naked wild man coming out of the depths of the shadows. His incredible strength made it pointless to chain him up or guard him – he would just break the chains and be driven into the desert. He was unstoppable. Were He alive today he would be a top member of the hells-angels, or some other gang bent on violence, destruction and anti-authority behaviour. Here was a man who captivated the imagination of a whole district – a man who was notoriously ferocious.
In the other corner we have Jesus. It is still fairly early in His ministry but he too is becoming a legend. He has healed paralytics, blind people, deaf people and people with leprosy.
He raised the widow’s son from the dead. On the way across the lake He commanded the storm to stop – and it did. Already Jesus has cast out an evil spirit from a man.
These are the contenders. Jesus in one corner. Legion in the other. It is a test of the power of Jesus … a test of His authority. And there are aspects of the test which are new to Jesus.
Firstly, Jesus is in the area of the Gerasenes. The Gerasenes is outside the traditional boundaries of Israel – which explains why the pigs are there since pigs are unclean animals and Jews shouldn’t have them. Up to this point Jesus has been able to work great wonders in God’s territory, but can Jesus do the same in the territory of the pagans?
Not only that ... Jesus is facing a formidable enemy. Jesus has cast out demons. But never have we read that He cast out multiple demons from one man. This man – Legion – could be a challenge, since in the Roman army the term “Legion” could refer to 1000-6000 men. A legion of demons. That’s a fair bit of evil.
So let’s picture the scene. The disciples have just had a crazy ride across the lake, where they thought they were going to drown, and where they witnessed Jesus calm the storm. So you can imagine their state of mind. Now, as the disciples beach their boat near a graveyard and a herd of pigs another explosive encounter begins. Just as Jesus steps out of the boat a crazy man storms out of a cavern. What a sight he would have made. Wild hair. Bloody wrists. Scratched skin. Fury in the flesh. He’s a totally naked man running through the cemetery with arms flailing and voice screaming.
My guess is the disciples just gulped and put one foot back into the boat. They are worried and horrified. But Jesus isn’t. From the beginning it is very clear that this contest is no contest at all – it’s a one-sided affair. Jesus is in complete control. When Mark tells this story in his Gospel Mark says,
When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. (Mark 5:2,6)
Why did he run to Jesus? Why not stand defiantly and make Jesus come to him? Why didn’t they run away and avoid the confrontation altogether? Why? Because Jesus has complete authority.
Back to Luke’s account.
When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at His feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" (Luke 8:28)
Up until this time the Legion of demons had dominated this man – now Legion cowers before the authority of Jesus. His name is Legion … 1 000, 2 000 up to 6 000 possessing demons … it could have been 100 000 and the results would have been exactly the same. His name is Legion but he is no match against a man named Jesus.