4th Sunday after Pentecost – June 20th, 2010
Grace Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.
How does this Gerasene demoniac – a man possessed by a legion of demons, tormented, driven him out into the wilderness as an outcast, naked, covered in self-inflicted wounds - a dead man living among the dead. How does this man, so abysmally seized by demons, wind up, fully clothed, fully sane, sitting at the feet of Jesus attending catechism class from the Lord of Life?
This is Jesus doing His Messiah work, - healing centurion's servants, forgiving harlots, calming storms and now binding up and casting out the strong man…Jesus releasing, liberating, and forgiving that which was bound, oppressed and accused by Satan. What Satan binds in sin, Christ releases by His death on the cross. Jesus is doing exactly what He was sent to do:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; He has anointed Me to proclaim Good News to the poor; liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed." (Luke 4:18-19)
If there was anybody who needed liberty from oppression it was this Gerasene demoniac. This wild man who made the graveyard his home makes today's goth kids look like Carebears. Go ahead, try to cuff him. Shackle him. Wrap chains around him tenfold. Post guards. Try to police him or domesticate him. Do all that you can. It won't do a bit of good. The demons take control of him and he's fifty times worse than a UFC fighter on steroids. He breaks the chains and fetters like cheap Wal-Mart made in China wristbands.
We are no match for the devils. This old evil foe means deadly woe. On earth is not his equal. We've no time for fairy tales or costumes with pointy horns and pitchforks. The demonic realm is real and they do nasty, gnarly, demonic things – miracles, possession – the reality is nothing like a new cartoon on TBS: "Neighbors from Hell" – sorry: h e double hockey sticks. This demonic stuff is dark. It's ugly. It's real and it's deadly. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness.
Luther clearly taught what we perilously ignore: "though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us." Luther wasn't just a paranoid of the paranormal monk. He knew that we live in a chaotic world – a world where popes and Turks threaten the Church; a world where oil spills and floods, disease and violence leave God's people frustrated and powerless.
And Luther also knew that no one loves this chaos more than Satan himself. Scripture teaches us where this chaos comes from – from the fall flows all death and destruction. All false religions outside the church – all false teaching in the church – flows from the same sulfuric abyss and leads right back to it. No wonder that Gerasene was so oppressed…with might of ours can naught prevail.
As our Lord as lands on the shores of pagan infested lands of Gerasa – this man on whom the hounds of hell had been released confronts our Lord. He comes out against Him to do battle - but falls on his knees – that's all the demons can do before Jesus. "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me."
The demons are powerless in the presence of the Son of God. He takes them on mono y legion. And Jesus wins. He always wins. Good Friday will demonstrate that, as Jesus shakes the broken pieces of Satan's skull off his pierced feet.
But for now, those demons had to go somewhere. They will no longer torment this Gerasene or you…yes, you are more like the Gerasene than you are willing to admit. According to your old sinful nature, you are powerless to admit just how far into the dark you've traveled, just how sinful you really are. As Isaiah declares, we are a rebellious people who walk in a way that is not good, following our own devices. It's a wonder this world isn't in more chaos than it already is in – but for the grace of God.
And this is why Christ must rescue you, must fight for you, must cast out the devil from you and cast His Holy Spirit into your hearts and mind. This is what He does for you in your baptism.
The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own. We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death and everlasting condemnation. But the Father has sent His Son Jesus; for us fights the Valiant One …He baptizes you victorious in His victory over sin and death. And now that to the font you've traveled the devil's might has come unraveled. For at one time you were darkness…but now you are light in the Lord, baptized by Water and the Word, reflecting this Light of the World.
As the Gerasene was, so were we: fast bound in Satan's chains we lay, death brooding darkly over us. But it is Christ who holds the field victorious. Satan's judged the deed is done – the Word made flesh has fell him. And now you are as the Gerasene became – free. forgiven.
Jesus' casting out of the Legion signals the end for the demons. that's why they beg Jesus not to command them into the abyss. So instead Jesus sends them into a herd of swine that march like lemmings into the sea. Someone alert PETA, Jesus cares more about this one man than a whole herd of unclean swine, a fitting place for unclean demons. Though They may not perish in the sea of Galilee, they will be tormented day and night in the lake of fire in Revelation. For their end is coming soon enough – Calvary – the Son of Man's d-day.
There the devil is undone– by Christ's substitution for us in the shadow of death. What Satan had bound in the fall – Christ releases by taking on our fetters of sinful debt, strapping Himself in our own prison and suffering our verdict. I thirst, for you. I live for you. I die for you. It is finished for you.
Satan's accusations are hollow before our Heavenly Father's ears. He only hears the obedient voice of His Son, Father forgive them for they know not what they do. It's true, we don't know what we do – sins too many to number, a world in chaos too overwhelming to comprehend. It appears that the devil wins. But he does not. He cannot. Not then, not in the Gerasene man, not today.
Christ is the One who fights for us…and He never loses. And just to make sure hell knows its defeated, Christ descends to hell to proclaim His victory – because Jesus is Lord even in the depths, there's no place He isn't Lord.
And now Satan lays chained, like an old junk yard dog with a well worn track around the hitching post. Don't underestimate the bite, stay away from the voodoo, the occult – it's not harmless, no matter what your friends tell you. Do not wander, dabble or even flirt with the darkside. Remember who's holding the leash – always choking satan back. The devil is always God's devil.
So Fear not! In Christ, You have the Light of the World – in whom there is no darkness, which means there is no darkness in you, His newly created, Holy Spirit enlightened saint. Christ is your Light, and His Word and Water, body and blood, are your light in dark places when all other lights go out.
What will sustain us in the dark chaos of this fallen world? Not religious enthusiasm, not a cheerleader faith – with might of ours can naught be done. None of these worked for the Gerasene either. Today you were brought here by His Word, to sit at His feet and hear His Word and to recline at His altar receiving a feast of His body and blood. This is where you hear the Scriptures read, where you sing and pray the Scripture saturated liturgy; where you are fastened to the bedrock of catechism, where you are planted as an unshakeable a tree thriving from the living streams of God's Word.
– so come what may – take they our life, goods, fame, - come hell on earth or high water, economic ups and downs, political change and unrest or heresy's distress – you are a forgiven, baptized sinner; you have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of the beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. And now you sit at Jesus' feet clothed in His death and resurrected robes of Baptism, clear of mind renewed by the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, Luke reports, this presence of Jesus is met by most with rejection. One man received (with no one to thank except Jesus) and the others reject (with no one to blame but themselves). And having rejected Jesus, they swiftly arrived at the same place the demoniac was in not too long ago. And then comes the scariest part of this story…when they ask Jesus to leave - He does. tell Jesus to bugger off, and He just might.
But thankfully for those people in that region, Jesus sent an evangelist. One who knew firsthand the great power of the devil and the greater power of Christ. What he received as gift from Jesus, he went proclaiming throughout the region – everything that Jesus had done for him. Receive and Respond. This is the rhythm of the Christian life –from the Gerasene to the Californian.
This is why evangelism – declaring the Good News of Jesus' victory over sin, death and the devil for you – flows from the Divine Service here at font and pulpit and altar. And then it begins at home – which reminds us on this father's day – fathers, teach your children the small catechism as the head of the household should do. Pray the hymnal and catechism, read the Scriptures together with your families in the home.
For it is you, God's children, like the Gerasene demoniac turned evangelist, who take this Good News with you to work, to the golf course, to the beach, to the mall, to school, to the neighbor in need. Telling them everything that God has done for you. He has forgiven you. Raised you. Freed you. Fed you. Clothed you. Given you heaven and an inheritance in all His glory.
So much to receive. So much to tell.
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.