Sunday 19 June 2016

Bible Book:

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” (v. 39)

Luke 8:26-39 Sunday 19 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm22


Today's passage from Luke's Gospel canbe a challenging one for modern readers. It deals with subjectssuch as demon-possession, wonder-working and the strict divisionbetween the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds that would have been veryfamiliar to Luke's first audience but may leave us confused.Conversely, the suffering of the man in the story may bring to ourmind questions about mental health issues that simply would nothave been asked by Jesus' contemporaries.

The story itself is also found in Mark5:1-20, with slight variations. It takes place "at the countryof the Gerasenes" (v.1). We believe that this was on thesouth-eastern edge of the Sea (or Lake) of Galilee. What isimportant is that this was gentile - non-Jewish - territory andJesus' work here arguably anticipates the important mission to theGentiles that Luke goes on to record in his second book, Acts. Itis also significant that the story takes place immediately afterJesus has calmed a storm on the lake (Luke8:22-25), using similar language of rebuke and authority, andimmediately before two miraculous healing stories (Luke8:40-56). Together these passages make it clear that Jesusenjoys absolute, God-given authority over all aspects of human,natural and spiritual life.

Luke makes it apparent in this passagethat the man has suffered greatly from the possession: he has beenforced to live outside, amongst the gravestones (verse 27), and wasbound by strong chains (verse 29). The severity of his condition isunderlined by the description of the demons possessing him asLegion (verse 30). A Roman legion consisted of about 6,000 soldiersbut the name arguably referred not to the exact number of demonsbut rather to their power over the man. Even they cannot resistJesus' authority, though, and are despatched into a herd of pigs,animals regarded as 'unclean' in Judaism. It may be that this wasdone as a visible demonstration that the man was now cured but wecannot be certain. Whatever the truth about this miracle, the endresult is certain. The man was healed, restored to his communityand became one of Jesus' first missionaries to the non-Jewishworld.

To Ponder

  • Stories of demon-possession like this one are frequent in theGospels yet they pose real challenges to many Christians today. Howmight we understand them?
  • What can the story teach you about how we treat those on thefringes of our society?
  • Do you ever feel able to proclaim what Jesus has done for youin your own communities? If not, why not?
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