Summary: Every single one of us will find it necessary to offer the courage of endurance throughout our lives. The easiest way for evil to win is not through bombs or bullets, but through the slow erosion of commitment and courage to stand against the current.
There was a little old lady who would come out every morning on the steps of her front porch, raise her arms to the sky and shout, "Praise the Lord!". One day an atheist moved into the house next door. Over time he became irritated at the little old lady. Every morning he would step out onto his front porch and yell after her, "There is no Lord".
Time passed, and the two of them carried on that way every day. One morning in the middle of winter, the little old lady stepped onto her front porch and shouted, "Praise the Lord! Lord, I have no food and I am starving. Please provide for me, oh Lord!"
The next morning she stepped out onto her porch and there were two huge bags of groceries sitting there. "Praise the Lord!" she cried out. "He has provided groceries for me!" The atheist jumped out of the hedges and shouted, "There is no Lord. I bought those groceries!"
The little old lady threw her arms into the air and shouted, "Praise the Lord! He has provided me with groceries, and He made the devil pay for them!"
There is a television show called "Extreme Makeover Home Edition". It is a show where a construction crew comes into a home and does a complete renovation, usually for a low income family or a family that has seen other hardships. There is nothing new about extreme makeovers. In fact, Jesus performed many extreme makeovers in the Bible. We heard one such makeover in the reading we heard from Luke 8:26-39 earlier in this morning's service.
When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man, he was no longer shameless. He was clothed. He had a sense of what was decent and proper. In other words, he had morals. The man was in his right mind. He saw the world as it was…a world with both enemies and friends. It doesn’t matter what they are or how severe they are. Jesus has the power to overcome our demons.
The story of Jesus and the demon-possessed man is an example of spiritual warfare. Jesus declared war on Satan and his demons. The Bible doesn't tell us much about demons, but it tells us enough. They are real and they deal in fear and deception. They are opposed to God and everything he does. We do not have to fear demons because we have faith in God's power.
All of us have our own inner demons, but they usually are not as severe as those who controlled the man. Our demons include possessiveness, hoarding things, extreme individualism, self-centeredness, racial prejudice, homophobia or exclusiveness. They could be spiritual questions, family secrets, health issues or anything else. They exist in the minds of perverts, rapists, murderers, child molesters, other criminals and anyone who thinks, does or speaks evil. To be possessed is culturally acceptable, and to be demon-free goes against our culture. That is scary because it goes against the status quo.
When demons control us, we are not ourselves because we are not in control. In contrast, sin is what we do because we are in control of our lives. The freedom demons offer is a false freedom because it dehumanizes and isolates its victims. Just look at how the demon-possessed man was treated. He was isolated from the community by having to live in the cemetery. He was isolated when the townspeople tried to confine him in chains.
Who are the people in our society that we try to restrain in various forms of chains? Are they people like the mentally ill or clients of sheltered workshops such as Penny Lane Enterprises? What places does Jesus take us to that scare us? Are we scared of people who are different from us because of race, colour, creed or other petty reasons? Jesus forces us to confront our demons. How do we react when that happens? Do we react like the demon-possessed man did when he was healed or do we react like the townspeople did?
This story reveals the emphasis that Luke's Gospel places on salvation. It shows the depth of human suffering into which God's salvation can reach. Jesus seeks out the oppressed, understands their plight, redirects their rage and reincorporates them into the community. Jesus' power is greater than all the forces in the world. Jesus never went out looking for demons, but when he found them he dealt with them immediately and severely. We do not have to go looking for demons. We need to keep our eyes fixed on God.
The demons knew what their fate was supposed to be. They knew that they were supposed to enter the abyss, which was known as the place where God confines demons. They pleaded with Jesus to go into the pigs instead. Since pigs were unclean animals in the eyes of the Jews, it was logical that unclean spirits sought out unclean things. Even though the demons thoughts that they had won when Jesus agreed to their request, in reality they lost because the pigs entered a natural abyss when they fell off of the cliff. (Pause)