Summary: The demon possessed man had totally lost his purpose in life. Jesus restored it. This sermon aims to encourage people to know the purpose God has for them.
A little camel asks mummy camel, “Mummy, why have I got such big flat feet?” She replies, “Well darling, in the desert you need big flat feet because the sand is soft and they help us to keep stable.”
The little camel goes away but then comes back. “Mummy, why have I got such big eyelashes?”
“Well darling, in the desert when there is a lot of wind the sand gets thrown about in the air. We need big eyelashes to stop the sand getting in our eyes.”
The little camel goes away but later returns again.
“Mummy, why have I got a hump back?”
“Darling, out in the desert we are sometimes without water for a long time; we have got the hump because it is designed to store a lot of water and it helps us to survive in the desert.” The young camel goes away.
He comes back one final time. “Mummy, I know why we have got big feet and long eyelashes and a hump; but can you tell me why we live in this zoo?”
(From ‘A bucket of surprises’ by J John & Mark Stibbe)
Incident by incident, encounter by encounter, Jesus is revealing who he is; and he is revealing his purposes for himself, for his disciples and for those he meets.
After calming a storm (8:22-25) there is a mixture of fear and amazement amongst the disciples as they ask one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (8:25); and if we read on further through Luke chapter 8 and into chapter 9 we find Jesus raising to life a dead girl, healing a sick woman, and then sending out the twelve disciples “with power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases [and] …to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (9:1-2).
The identity and purpose of Jesus was becoming clearer; and the vocation – the disciples’ purpose in life – their ‘raison d’être’ – was also becoming clear.
The demon-possessed man in our Bible story had lost his purpose in life. He was naked and lived amongst the tombs (8:27). A bit like the young camel there was confusion about identity and purpose in life.
Are any of you confused about your identity? Are you confused or unclear about your purpose in life?
The man’s mind (his very identity) had become locked away (a bit like the camel locked in the zoo) so that he was unable to fulfil his purpose in life.
However, his meeting with Jesus changed all that. Jesus cured him (8:36); and by sending the herd of pigs down the steep bank and into the lake (8:33) Jesus gave the man an outward and visible sign to confirm that the ‘herd’ of demons had gone.
When we get taken over by habits, addictions or patterns of behaviour which stunt our purpose in life it is often helpful to do something to break the cycle. Just as it’s good for a recovering alcoholic to get rid of every drop of alcohol in the house, there was an occasion when I threw away two music albums when I was 19 because the lyrics were quite simply disgusting and hellish. Throwing them in the bin put an end to their affect on me.
Likewise, the danger of becoming addicted to the “Football Manager” computer game has been avoided by my wife hiding the CD so that only my sons have access to the game! Daft but true! It is a game which could easily take over my life, my spare time, my every waking moment, and it would send me totally off course in terms of God’s purposes for my life.
After his powerful encounter with Jesus, the man (who was formerly demon-possessed) sat at Jesus’ feet, dressed for the first time in years and in his right mind, healed, for the first time in years. He wanted, perhaps understandably, to go with Jesus (8:38), to be a part of the group that was following him. Perhaps we sometimes desire to be part of a particular group, an ‘in-crowd’ with close first-hand experience of a charismatic leader. If that’s you then (like the man) Jesus says to you, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (8:39). God had a purpose for the life of that man, and he has a purpose for you too.
You will, I am sure, know the phrase, “What on earth are you doing for Christ’s sake?” My friend Chris Page turns that around and extends a challenge. “What are you doing, on earth, for the sake of Christ?” In other words what is your God-given, Jesus-focused purpose for this life on earth?
For me, my purpose in life can best be summarised be this phrase: “To know Jesus better and to make him better known.” Note that the phrase says nothing about how well known I become! It is a temptation to be part of an in-crowd, well known and sought after but that is not what Jesus wants for me or for you.