20 June 2010

Luke 8:26-39

"Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they 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." (v.35)


Just before this passage, Luke has described how Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:22-25), showing his power over even the wildest forces of nature. We are told that Jesus "rebuked" - exorcised - the wind and waves and so brought peace and calm. In this way Luke prepares us for another dramatic encounter - this time with an army of demonic forces.

The encounter with Legion takes place in the country of the Gerasenes, but there has always been uncertainty about where this is or what it is called - Gadarene? Gergesenes? The specific place may not matter too much, but its general location does. This is Gentile (non-Jewish) territory, beyond the bounds Jesus has set for his mission (Matthew 15:24). Will this limit his authority and power?

The man named Legion is in a desperate state - shackled, tormented, broken. His confession that Jesus is the son of the Most High God is one of fear rather than hope. He doesn't have to ask for Jesus to do anything - perhaps he can't. But Jesus takes the initiative and his power over the massed forces of abomination is unmistakeable as unclean pigs rush headlong over a cliff.

The Gospel-writer Luke simply accepts the condition of demon possession. He is not interested in how or why this happens. He is, however, very interested in the result, both for the man and for those who witnessed this miracle.

The man is found clothed and in his right mind. The storm is calmed and he is himself again. But healing requires more. He must also be restored to others. The man - no longer Legion - wants to follow Jesus, but instead he is told to go home and is commissioned as the first missionary to the Gentiles.

What about the onlookers? They are terrified (or angry about their pigs) and cannot wait for Jesus to leave them alone. Their peace, if they will receive it, will come not from Jesus himself, but from the man he sends to them.

To Ponder

Do you have to believe in demon possession to understand this miracle of healing? Why?

The man wants to follow Jesus but he is sent home. Can you reflect on times when following Jesus means leaving and others when it means staying?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr David Hewlett

David is currently principal of The Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. He is an ordained Anglican priest and is an authorised minister within the British Methodist Church - a relationship that he has valued enormously.