Sermon St Mary St Peter 19 & St E 22 June 2022 Trinity 1 Year C P7 Demoniac
Ps 22v19-28 Is65v1-9 Lk8v26-39 Galatians 3v23-29
Let us pray:
When we read the scriptures, when we read our bibles, there are often contained in its pages some very worthwhile questions to ask, and todays Gospel story from Saint Luke (Lk8vs26-39), is preceded by such a question.
Some years ago, when I was teaching Physics and Maths at the Anglican School in Jerusalem, Joy and I took a trip to see the Galilee region and visited the site where today’s Gospel story is set.
From His adopted home with St Peter in Capernaum, Jesus’ initial ministry would have been along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. From there Jesus may have looked many times across the lake to the other side and seen the city of Hippos, sitting atop of the plateau which overlooks the lake. That city was probably the one referred to by Jesus when telling His disciples that they were to be the ‘light of the world’, to be like “a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.” (Mtt5v14)
Now for those of you who know something of the Geography of the Galilee there is a clue in this account of Jesus’ crossing of the lake to the other side, as to just when this story may have happened.
They crossed to the small fishing village of Kursi set just below Hippos in the Gentile region of the Decapolis, and that was where the demonic lived amongst the tombs.
In the summer months a west wind called the Gharbiyer blows across the lake, cooling the intense heat, but not causing any storms. Whereas in the winter and spring months, an east wind named the Skarkiyeh blows, and can often result in the birth of sudden storms as happened to the disciples in this story of their crossing.
This then enables us to give a possible time for their crossing to around February of the year AD 29, and represents the first major trip of Jesus with his band of disciples away from the local towns around their base in Capernaum.
When the storm blew up the disciples implored Jesus to do something to save them. He rebuked the wind and the waves and the disciples asked “Who then is this, that he commands even wind and water, and they obey him”?
Now that is a very worthwhile question to ask about Jesus. Who then indeed is this Jesus? O that more peoples today would ask that very same question and so come to recognise the true person of Jesus.
Who then was this in the boat with the disciples? Could it be none other than the Lord of hosts, incarnate in the person of their Rabbi and master, Jesus? Was the miraculous stilling of that storm just another subtle pointer as to just who Jesus really was and is?
Who then was this? Well if the disciples could not yet grasp the significance of Jesus’ person, as we have seen in previous weeks, the hidden spiritual world, the world of the demoniac, certainly had no doubt.
Our gospel story tells us that when Jesus stepped ashore the demoniac cried out “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God”. The demons in him clearly knew who Jesus was. Remember in the letter of James (2v19), we read ‘You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder.’ So just a belief in God is not really enough, it requires us to take action upon that belief.
In that invisible spiritual world, the realm that intermingles with our space and time, even the demons recognised just who Jesus really was. We may like to ask, ‘why is it so difficult for us humans, created in the very image of God, to do the same today’? To recognise Jesus as the living embodiment of the living God.
I trust that all of us here have asked that question and discovered just who Jesus is. If we have we can then testify to how that discovery results in the start of a complete change in life and perspectives. Just as with our demoniac Legion, when Jesus cast out the many demons from him and into the swine, Legion was then found sitting at the feet of Jesus and clothed and in his right mind.
If it was necessary for the healed demoniac in that first century to sit at the feet of Jesus, I would venture that it is still needed for each one of us today. If we wish to please God then we also have to come, and to metaphorically, sit at the feet of that same Lord Jesus our Master, the Rabbi and teacher Jesus. We have to learn from Him, and to be prepared, just like the original band of disciples, to take His truth and light out into today’s world, a world that seems to be sinking each day into an ever increasing haze of deception and darkness.
Our story then tells us that Jesus and his disciple were effectively forced to leave that pagan Decapolis region. Why? Because even though the locals saw Legion restored to his right mind, their livelihood had been taken away when Jesus permitted the many demons to enter the swine, who then rushed headlong over the cliff and into the lake. It would appear that this first bold attempt of Jesus to take the message of Salvation into a heathen territory like the Decapolis had been a real failure. But have we not all learnt that our first impressions can be very deceptive?
Legion, the healed demoniac begged Jesus to take him with the disciples as they set off back across the lake to Capernaum. But Jesus had other plans for him, and maybe Jesus has other plans for us also that we are not always aware of. Here Jesus commissions Legion as his first evangelist to this pagan world with the words “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.” And that is also what God asks of each one of us today, to tell what God has done for us. So the healed demoniac returned home and did just that, and with what result?
The apostle Matthew in his Gospel account of that same story tells us of the result which took place a little while later (Mtt14v34-36). Some months later when Jesus returned to the Decapolis the people now recognised Him in a very different light. Having seen the change in the life of Legion as a result of that previous exorcism, and also hearing Legions testimony, they now brought to Jesus all their sick to be healed.
So it would seem that in the interim period Legion had done a pretty effective job at evangelising his neighbours. And from that we can also take encouragement.
God, through his Holy Spirit, can take the testimony of our encounter with Jesus to speak to our neighbours as well.
And so our healed demoniac Legion sets us a great example to follow. As we return to our homes and places of work, especially after we have met with our Lord around His table, we too need to tell of who Jesus really is. The incarnate Son of the one true and living God; and like the demoniac, to tell of what Jesus has, and still is, doing for us, and can also do for them.
Our prayer should be that our families, friends and neighbours would respond in such a positive way as to be confident to come to Jesus for His healing touch upon their lives. Pray for them to recognise as Paul said to the Galatian Christians, ‘we are all children of God’ once we have put our faith and trust in Jesus, and so to give to them that same new and living hope that dwells in our hearts. A hope in the resurrection to eternal life with our Lord Jesus and with our creator God and heavenly Father.
Let us pray:
God of truth and love, help us to keep your law of love and to walk in the ways of wisdom, that all may be drawn to your healing touch, and find true life and hope in Jesus Christ, your risen Son our Lord and coming King. Amen