Made New: Encountering Jesus
June 19, 2022 | Made New: Encountering Jesus| Luke 8:26-39
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(Father’s Day Sunday)
Happy Father’s Day to our dads. You know becoming a dad is one of those events that radically change your life.
There are those events that just change you, maybe it’s graduating college, maybe it’s a national tragic event like 9/11, maybe it's a trip you take, right? You just aren't the same afterward. And then there are encounters with people that change you.
Meeting your spouse, maybe it's a chance encounter that ends with a lifelong friendship, maybe it is meeting just the right person at just the right time who shares a similar past experience, or someone who introduces you to your career path, and so on. There are just moments that change you.
In our text today we are going to see an encounter between two people that not just radically changes one of their lives, but completely transforms it.
These two people could not be more different, one, the son of God, Emmanuel, God in the flesh, fresh from commanding the very wind and waves to be still, and one completely controlled and oppressed by demonic forces, living in desperate anguish. Although brief, it is a story of epic proportions, it’s got good conquering evil, mobs of angry townsfolk, danger, suspense, demonic pigs, and radical transformation. But at its core, it is a story that resonates with each one of us, in fact, as we will see, it is our story, and if it’s not, it can be today.
I remember what was likely my first encounter with this story in the production of the Promise play at Mobberly Baptist. The play includes this scene we are looking at today and there is a moment where the demon-possessed man answer’s Jesus’ question on what his name is, and he says ‘we are legion’, and they used audio effects to make it sounds like a bunch of people said it at the same time, it was loud, the speakers rumbled, and for a young kid, absolutely terrifying. But right before my eyes, this story of this radical and miraculous encounter with Jesus played out for me to see. But what I missed then and what I hope you see today is that, whether or not it is as dramatic of an encounter, every encounter with Jesus is a radical and miraculous one that has the power to completely transform our lives.
Made New: Encountering Jesus
There are three accounts of this miracle in the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Each one provides some minor details from the others, so we will primarily focus on Luke’s account, noting additional details from Matthew and Mark where appropriate. So open your bibles to Luke chapter 8 where we find this story of this Gerasene Demon.
We are going to look at three aspects of this encounter: the condition of the man, the characteristics of the meeting, and the content of the message.
Luke 8:26-39 (ESV) 26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
The Condition of The Man
Cyril of Alexandria provided an apt description: “In great misery and nakedness, he wandered among the graves of the dead. He was in utter wretchedness, leading a disgraceful life . . . deprived of every blessing, destitute of all sobriety, and entirely deprived even of reason.”
This man is a picture of complete suffering psychologically, socially, and spiritually.
Let’s briefly look at the way in which he is described as having been for a long time.
Wore no clothes- naked (not enough sense to cloth himself and no sense of shame)
Not lived in a house, but among the tombs- Outcast, living among the dead
Tombs- These tombs were hewn out of the rocky caves of the locality, and served for shelters and lurking places
(For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.)
Resisting every attempt to restrain him- the townspeople, perhaps even loved ones and former friends and associates attempted to keep him from leaving, from hurting himself and others.
Mark- 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.
Controlled by forces beyond his control- driven by the demon
Driven- of the wind driving ships or clouds; of sailors propelling a vessel by oars, to row; to be carried in a ship, to sail; of demons driving to some place the men whom they possess
Desert- deserted places, lonely regions
His condition controlled him and separated him from others.
Matthew’s gospel tells us that there were two demon-possessed men, though Luke and Mark center their accounts on only one of them. From there we learn that he was also violent.
two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.
In Mark’s gospel we learn further details about his condition-
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
In misery- crying out (literally shrieking)
Harming himself- cutting himself with stones
This is nearly the absolute worst condition anyone could imagine. One commentary summed it up like this: he was naked, lonely, violent, and insane, walking among the dead, and yet even for all his misery, we can see ourselves in his situation because sin has similar effects on all of us. It exposes us naked in our guilt, it alienates us from one another, leaving us lonely and alone, and it makes us violent, at least in our attitudes, if not our actions. Spiritually speaking, we walk among the dead. Thus the madman in the graveyard shows the wretchedness of our condition outside of Christ.
This is what the bible tells us concerning ourselves. We are hostile to God (Romans 8:7), we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) we are alienated and hostile in mind apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:21). We are helpless because we cannot save ourselves. We are unable to do any spiritual good and worse we are blinded to keep us from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Although we may externally look like we are better off than this man, the reality is that this is us.
One of the interesting things I found in my study is how closely this man’s condition mirrors what Jesus tells the people at Laodicea in the book of Revelation. Listen to what he says.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Pitiable- miserable, deserving of pity
Poor- destitute of wealth, influence, position, honor (specifically spiritually poor here)
Blind- mentally blind
The spiritual condition of those in Laodicea sounds a lot like this man’s situation, doesn’t it? The reality is that apart from Christ, this is who humanity is.
But Jesus doesn’t leave him there, let’s look at the details of his encounter with Jesus.
The Characteristics of The Meeting
I want to give you three characteristics of this encounter, which consequently describe our own encounters with Jesus.
1. Jesus initiated the encounter.
Just before our verses this morning, we find this detail (ESV) 22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”
If you take into account that Jesus crossed back over immediately after this encounter, that he never left the immediate vicinity of where they landed, then we have to assume that he came for the sole purpose of encountering this man, which is an amazing statement. Think about it, we see Jesus going out of his way to engage this man dominated by demonic forces.
In a similar way, we acknowledge that if we have encountered Jesus it is because he took the initiative.
We find this statement in Romans,
Romans 3:9-12 (ESV) 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Let me help you, look up here, you are not the exception.
Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44). In other words, the only way we can seek God is if the Holy Spirit has first stirred our hearts with a desire for God. It is God who draws us to Himself. In the same way, Jesus seemingly sought this man ought, God, through his Holy Spirit initiates our encounter with Jesus.
Yes, this man rushed towards Jesus and fell down at his feet, he did not, could not, and would have not, ever went looking for Jesus. But as Jesus came towards him, he responded.
2. Jesus addressed the core issue.
Think about all of the ways we have described this man and all his corresponding needs. He was naked, wounded, outcast, violent, homeless, and crazy.
Jesus didn’t address any of that. Imagine Jesus saying, in response to this greeting, get this man a doctor, some clothes, a rehabilitation center, a shelter, and a psychologist.
Were those real needs? Absolutely, but we see Jesus gets right to the core issue when the bible says ,”For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man”
The man could not be fixed by natural means, he needed supernatural help.
For all intents and purposes, this man was dead, the life he was living was no life, he had no hope and no future except to be used up by these demons.
In the same way, what people need is not simply to have their needs met. Missions, outreach, and serving our community must not be simplified down to just meeting physical or emotional needs, or it misses the very thing Jesus shows us must be addressed. We need a heart change.
You see, from his story we see that people had tried to help this man before. Likely, they had clothed him, bound him to keep him from running away and hurting himself, maybe they tried to feed him, bring him indoors, and at the end of the day, it had been useless in changing his situation.
As crazy as it would have been for Jesus to focus on the external factors of this man, it is just as crazy when people think they need to fix themselves before responding to Jesus.
Feeling the tug of God on their lives, they respond by saying, once I get my life together, once I get a handle on this drinking, once I get control of these impulses, once I conquer this sin tendency, then I will come to Jesus. That is and will always be nonsense.
At the end of the day, apart from God, you will always be driven back to your sin because you are controlled by the flesh, as much as this man was controlled by these demons.
He needed to be set free and that is exactly what Jesus did. He commanded the demons out of this man, and by his authority and divinity, this man was set free.
3. Jesus restored the man.
After Jesus initiated the encounter, after Jesus addressed the core issue, then we see that Jesus restored the man.
In a dramatic reversal, when the people show up to see what has happened, they find this man radically transformed from the inside out.
Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Peace where there had only been turmoil. Submission where there had been only rebellion. Relationship where there had only been loneliness and dread. Stillness where there had been great crying out.
Clothed and in his right mind.
Covered where there had been nakedness. Clarity where there had been madness.
You see restoration comes after the encounter with Jesus, not as a prerequisite for it. You don’t have to fix yourself, you don’t have to get your life together, you just have to let Jesus address the core issue, that you are dead in your trespasses and sin, dominated by your sinful nature, in desperate need of a savior.
...restoration comes after the encounter with Jesus, not as a prerequisite for it. You don’t have to fix yourself, you don’t have to get your life together, you just have to let Jesus address the core issue, that you are dead in your trespasses and sin, dominated by your sinful nature, in desperate need of a savior.
That’s what it looks like to encounter Jesus and friends, if you think you have or will encounter Jesus any other way, you are gravely mistaken.
You know the rest of the story, Jesus permits the thousands of demons to enter these two thousand pigs (Mark), and they rush down the cliff and drown. The people come and because of the testimony of those who witnessed this event, and the fact of this man’s radical transformation, the people are afraid, so they beg Jesus to leave.
It’s a strange reaction to be sure, and we don’t have time to dig into it fully but suffice it to say, they seem to be more concerned with their own livelihood and situation than with what Jesus could do among them, so they beg him to leave. With the exception of one man. This unnamed man, who had just been freed by Jesus. He begs Jesus to let him leave with him, to accompany him, as the scripture says, to be with him.
This is an understandable and even a justified reaction, but one that Jesus ultimately denies. Rather, he sends him to go spread a message. Let’s turn to the final aspect of this encounter.
The Content of The Message
The man wanted to go with Jesus, to be a follower, a disciple. He was willing to leave anything he may have waiting on him now that he had been restored and go with him wherever he went.
I think we can relate to that. When we realize everything God has done for us, we want to do big things for God, we want to spend our life in his service, and we often think that means some dramatic expression such as leaving everything and going to be a missionary or into vocational ministry, and it may. But more often than not, Jesus' instruction to us will sound much like his instruction to this man.
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”
Go, where? Home (either his hometown, his actual house, or his household, probably the meaning includes a little of all of those.
Go, and do what?
Go and articulate the great truth of the New Covenant and God’s promised Messiah, and how I am the divine fulfillment of that, while extensively quoting all of the old Testament prophecies concerning who I am.
No, go and tell everyone and anyone how much God has done for you.
The content of his message was to simply proclaim what had happened to him.
See, he had been restored, not just to life, to dignity, to wholeness, but he had been restored to a new purpose, one that he got immediately to. And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Mark describes it this way, And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
The Decapolis was a track of land so called from the ten cities that were in it
Don’t miss the was Luke faithfully records the details. The man went forth and proclaimed how much JESUS had done for him. In his mind, proclaiming what Jesus had done was the same as proclaiming what God had done.
Listen, God may call you to preach, God may call you to missions, short term, long term, domestic, international, he may call you to serve the kingdom in some special way, but at the core of every person’s calling after encountering Jesus is to faithfully proclaim how much he has done for you.
Beginning, first and foremost, in your own home, household, and city.
How are you doing with that?
Do the people closest to you know what God has done for you, do they know what has happened to you when you encountered Jesus? Do they know that you have been made new?
What about your co-workers, your friends, your neighbors?
...at the core of every person’s calling after encountering Jesus is to faithfully proclaim how much he has done for you.
And before you say, Pastor, I don’t have a dramatic story like that. Nonsense. You were dead and now you are alive, you were bound, by your own choices, for an eternal separation from God, and now your destiny is an eternity with him. You were controlled by sin, flesh, and the enemy, and you have been set free in Christ.
Your story is even more dramatic than this man’s, because encountering Christ on this side of Pentecost, as we saw a few weeks ago, means that God has come to dwell in you. You have a message to share with the world.
Three aspects of this amazing story, Jesus initiated this encounter, Jesus addressed the core issue, and Jesus gave him a mission of proclaiming what had happened to him.
Friend, if you have encountered Jesus, this is your story too. You have been changed from that encounter, you have been made new.
And if you haven’t perhaps today you see Jesus standing as it were, on the shore of your life. Will you fall down before him?
As we close, let’s return to Jesus’ words to the people at Laodicea.
Revelation 3:14-22 (ESV) 14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Remember this was written to people affiliated with the church. They were sitting in the pews, but they were not trusting in Jesus, but rather themselves. His call to them was if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, or receives me, I will come in.
His call to you this morning, if you are not his, if you have not been made new, is the same.