Luke

Healing a Gentile Demoniac. 8:26-39

 
Introduction

This episode in Luke's gospel sits closely with Jesus' calming of the storm, 8:22-25. In the healing of the Gentile demoniac we are given a glimpse of the coming cosmic confrontation between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, played out in the ministry of Jesus. Satan's kingdom is shaken and a Gentile is freed - a sign of things to come.

 
The passage

v26. Luke tells us that Jesus has entered Gentile territory, although there is confusion as to the exact location. The region referred to by Luke is probably associated with a village near the lake, possibly the village today called Kersa.

v27. Luke wants us to see Jesus' meeting with the demoniac as a planned occasion rather than accidental. This is a continuation of Jesus' confrontation with dark powers, powerfully illustrated in the stilling of the storm. The demoniac is quite mad (those who live in the midst of a cemetery were regarded as deranged). He was once a village resident, now his neighbors are the dead.

v28-30. At this point the demons do the talking. Falling before Jesus indicates submission, but not reverence. The demons see no good coming out of their contact with Jesus ("what do you want with me?" = "what good can come to me from contact with you?"). They know well who Jesus is and ask him to restrain from judging them just yet, given that the final judgment is yet to come. The description of the demoniac's condition illustrates the power of this particular possession - no chain could bind him. The use of the military term "legion" (5,000 to 6,000 men), illustrates the power of the demons.

v31-33. In Jewish cosmology the "abyss" is the watery deep under the earth (a place of chaos, as opposed to the created order of the earth) in which the powers of darkness are confined until the day of judgment. The demons don't want to go back there, yet they can't help driving the pigs to that very place. In giving them "permission" to enter the pigs, Luke reminds us that Jesus' mission is not to destroy the demonic powers, but rather to deliver a people from their control.

v34-35. The herdsmen gather a crowd of locals. Returning to the scene, they witness the peaceful hand of God's power and are afraid.

v36-37. The whole Gentile region gets caught up in the consequences of the exorcism. Filled with fear, they ask Jesus to leave and take with him this manifestation of divine presence and power.

v38-39. As a Gentile, the healed demoniac has no place in the Jewish mission of Jesus, but he may proclaim the mighty acts of God to his own people. Here, we see an echo of the coming Gentile mission.

 
Discussion

1. This episode illustrates Jesus' victory over the powers of darkness. What does it tell us about this victory?

2. What does this story tell us of the Gentile response to the gospel?

 
Liberty and fraternity

It's not easy to define the character of Western democratic societies, but they probably rest on two qualities held in tension. The two qualities are liberty and fraternity. Independence is enshrined in a do-your-own-thing attitude, a dislike of authority along with a love of freedom, free enterprise, .... capitalism. Fraternity is enshrined in giving a helping hand, social care, justice, egalitarianism, .... socialism. A characteristic of Western democracies is the tension that exists between liberty and fraternity and the constant struggle to balance both.

From the 1970's to the 1990's the pendulum swung to the left. Social justice ruled at the expense of free enterprise, and became well entrenched within the bureaucracy and within government-funded instrumentalities. In Australia, for example, the government funded media become a bastion for the social justice agenda of the left. Their political correctness proclaimed that "environmentalists are always virtuous, Species always seem to be in danger of extinction. Women are always coming up against patriarchy and glass ceilings. .. corporations (especially miners, the timber industry, even farmers) seem to be acting badly. Rich people are likely to be mean, ... the UN is a good thing, and international organizations such as Greenpeace are plucky and well-intentioned", Prof. Don Aitkin.

Through the first decade of the new millennium the pendulum has begun to swing back toward freedom, toward the individual, rather than community responsibility. Social justice issues, such as multiculturalism, affirmative action, indigenous rights, welcoming asylum seekers ..., are being questioned by an emerging new right. For an increasing number, the political correctness of The Nanny State is not so correct.

Although it is often said that Jesus was the greatest socialist who ever lived, there is no evidence that Jesus had a social justice agenda. Not that he didn't believe in fraternity; his disciples were to "love one another." Yet, the poor will always be with us, along with the institutions that impoverish. Darkness shall reign, certainly for this life. The notion of a heaven on earth at the hands of a cleansed proletariat is certainly not the dream of Jesus. Yes, darkness will be condemned, will even condemn itself, but not till the end. So, in the meantime, let there be liberty and fraternity.

Beyond the business of society there is a more important issue - liberty from spiritual powers that enslave and fraternity with God. Jesus sets us free. The world may still be wrong, but in Jesus our souls are free from the darkness that enslaves us. We are free to eternally sit at the feet of Jesus - here lies true liberty and fraternity.

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