Have you ever eaten those frozen pot pies? I have not eaten one in years but I used to love the chicken ones. One of my early cooking attempts was baking a couple of them for an easy summer dinner for the family. I had put a few of them on a cookie sheet and anxiously waited for them to finish baking. As I took them out of the oven my hand brushed the pan. I recoiled and dropped the pot pies, spilling them on the door of the oven and the floor, the pies exploded. The contents hit my bare legs (I had shorts on) and it felt like hot lava. I screamed and jumped back – too late. I had second and third degree burns on my upper left thigh. For a long time I was afraid to use the oven.
Jesus has just calmed the storm in Luke 8 and in verse 26, Jesus and his disciples are back in the boat. I can tell you that after being in those waves and wind the last thing I would have wanted to do was get back into the boat but that is not Jesus. He goes where and when His father tells Him and the safest place to be is with Jesus. They land in the Gadara (or Gerasene depending on your translation) and meet a demon possessed man. Jesus does not seem surprised or dismayed by this man or his appearance – Jesus knows what is going on with him; He knows what is going on with me.
Luke 8 and Mark 5 taken together paint a picture of a man who was seemed more inhuman than human. The man was naked and incredibly strong, he had been bound with chains but they could not hold or subdue him. He was scarred and bleeding; he cut himself with sharp stones. He screamed constantly. He lived in the tombs among the dead bodies. There is no record of how long he suffered in this condition but I picture his filthy, matted hair and beard and the nearly visible stench of his unwashed body and of death. I would have recoiled and fled in terror. Jesus strides in; this is the fearless, warrior Jesus who has come to fight for this lost man, the Jesus who will come back to fight for His bride, who fights for me.
The demons possessing the man cry out when they see and recognize Jesus and they call Him by name, Jesus, Son of the Most High God. These evil creatures know who He is yet how many in that day, how many today, still do not recognize Him, refuse to recognize Him. Someday every knee will bow as they recognize Him when He comes again in glory and power. The demons would rather be sent into some nearby pigs than sent into the abyss, the place of eternal torment. It is sad to hear some today claim that they are not afraid of hell, that they prefer hell to heaven; these demons know what that really means, they understood the seriousness and the finality of eternal separation from God.
The herdsman run away, full of fear. The townspeople come to investigate and ask Jesus to leave. What are they all afraid of? Losing the pigs and the income they represented? Are they afraid of change? A genuine encounter with Jesus will cause a change and some are more focused on what they may have to give up than on what they might gain by yielding to Christ; fear holds many back but perfect love casts out fear and Jesus love is so perfect! So Jesus leaves, He will not stay where He is not wanted.
The man, now dressed and in his right mind, begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus instructs him to go back to his home, to tell of the great things Jesus had done. I am so glad this story is recorded for us. Once upon a time, I was one of the walking dead. I was afraid that if I trusted Jesus I might lose out on the fun of life; I worried about what I might have to give up. I was in chains and full of scars, now I am free in Christ, He broke the chains, He bears my scars. All around me are dead men, and women, but they don’t know that apart from Christ they are dead. Jesus came intentionally to the demon possessed man of Gadara to heal his mind, his tortured spirit, to set him free. Jesus comes today to heal and free the captives, to bring those walking in eternal death to eternal life. Only Jesus can do this, only Jesus…