Summary: A sermon for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, proper 7, Series C
4th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr.7] June 20, 2010 “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, through your Son, Jesus the Christ, you not only revealed your redeeming grace, but you also call us to be your Son’s disciples and to witness to his victory over sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, remind us that we are not only recipients of your divine love, but that through our Baptism in to Christ’s death and resurrection, we are commissioned to proclaim your gospel to those we encounter each day. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is a strange story, to say the least. In fact, this will be the first time since I was ordained, that I have decided to preach on this text. This lesson was not included in our former lectionary and since we began following the Revised Common Lectionary, I always chose to address our second lesson, rather than the lesson from Luke.
First, we should note that in crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus has entered into Gentile territory. In fact, as one of the commentaries that I read pointed out, Jesus has crossed a theological barrier in his ministry, by entering the land of the Gerasenes. And as he steps of the boat, Jesus enters a scene that would defile any good person of the Jewish faith. He is now in unclean territory.
Just think about the details. Jesus is met by a man whom we are told has many demons. More than this, this man was nude. He had not worn clothes for many years. And if this was not enough to make any good Jew run in the opposite direction, Luke tells us that this man did not live in a house, but made his home among the dead, living in the tombs. Even if you and I, who don’t share a code of ritual purity that governed the lives of the Jews of that day, encountered such a man, we would most likely erect walls of avoidance.
Clearly, this man was a tormented soul, not in his right mind. And yet, if we were to take this story in the context of the verses that immediately precede this morning’s lesson, we find that this poor, tormented man, answers the question posed by Jesus’ hand picked disciples. Luke tells us that as Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus fell asleep in the back of the boat. A great storm arose, and the disciples, fearing for their lives, woke Jesus, who rebuked the winds and calmed the sea.
Then in fear, the disciples asked one another, “Who is this, that he commands even the wind and water, and they obey him?” The disciples did not yet know who Jesus was. But when they came ashore, this nude man, who was not in his right mind, fell down at Jesus’ feet and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” If the man himself didn’t know who Jesus was, clearly the demons that possessed him knew.
Jesus then chooses to heal the man and restore him to a proper place in his community, by commanding that the demons come out of the man. To underscore the amount of demons that possessed this man, Jesus asks his name, to which the man answered “Legion.” A Roman legion has 5,600 troops.
Well, the demons resist Jesus’ initial command, pleading that they not be sent back to the abyss, which according to Revelation, is a prison reserved for demonic spirits. But as Jesus insisted on healing the man, the demons begged Jesus to let them enter a herd of pigs grazing on the hillside. And if you have not yet gotten the point that this was Gentile territory, here’s the clincher. I can’t imagine Jews raising pork.
Jesus grants their request, and casts the demons out of the man and into the pigs, which really seals their fate. The pigs then run down the hillside and into the sea, drowning themselves and the demons. This, of course, upset those who were herding the swine, who ran off to town to tell everyone what Jesus had done. This, created quite a stir. So the people of the town came out to see for themselves what had happened.
When they got to the shore, they were stunned. There was the man from whom Jesus had cast out all those demons, who used to be totally mad, running around in the nude, sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and in his right mind. Here is another point that should not go unnoticed. This man who had never been in his right mind, assumed the position of a disciple, a student, sitting at Jesus’ feet as he taught.