19 June 2022Luke 8:26-39
The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.' So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. (vs 38-39)
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all include this curious story of Jesus performing an exorcism. In Luke’s account the place is Gerasa, and given the presence of pigs, it is likely to be Gentile (non-Jewish) territory. According to Luke, only Jesus seems to get out of the boat. The naked man emerged from the tomb, and although he removed himself from everyone else, he was compelled towards Jesus. The man is described as possessed by a demon. This language is common in the Bible, and sometimes referred to as ‘an unclean spirit'. Whilst some commentators suggest that this could describe someone with acute mental ill health, it is important never to equate demon possession with mental ill health.
The town's people had tried and failed to help the man (v. 29), and in his distress he removed himself from the community to the tombs, the place of the dead. The man (or the demon, the unclean spirit) identified Jesus by calling him "Son of the Most High God", offering an answer to the disciple’s earlier question (vs 22-25), "Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?"
In a curious twist, the demons begged Jesus to let them enter the pigs, which they did after Jesus gave his permission. (v. 32) It would be very reasonable to ask about the lack of care for the pigs, who subsequently drowned, and for the pig farmers who immediately lost their livelihood.
The power Jesus demonstrated left people afraid, despite the incredible reality that the man was fully restored. The final verses in this story are very poignant: when the man asked to travel with Jesus, his response is direct, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." (v. 39) The consequence of his healing is that he is restored to his community, family and friends. He no longer needs to live among the dead, he can return to life among the living.
The good news of the gospel is found in the man being fully restored to health and to his community. It is a demonstration of justice and evangelism deeply intertwined. Justice isn’t a thing; it is always about relationships. At the heart of Jesus’ message for each one of us is restoration, recovering our dignity, clothing our nakedness, alleviating our deep sense of shame and rediscovering our connection to God, ourselves, and to one another.
- Where do you see people excluded in your community?
- How could you join in with God’s work of restoring relationships?
Holy God, give us the courage to search for you, as you persistently search for us. When we feel disconnected, isolated, and afraid, thank you for restoring us to life in all its fullness. Amen.