And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. (Lk. 8:27-31 NASB)
I captured a few more verses of this passage because I wanted to make something clearer I mentioned in the first entry on this topic. This “legion” of demons was strong enough to negotiate with God the Son. In other passages where Jesus is casting out demons, there’s no discussion, no debate, no delay, they simply fly out of people when Jesus says to, and shut up when He says to. He says it, they do it. These guys resist, and resist successfully.
So there exists among the unclean spirits of the army of our enemy, those who can effectively, for a time, resist even God. That should cause us to sit up and take notice. This account has three examples, two of which are from eye-witnesses, and those two differ greatly. Why is that? I suspect that this was one of the most troubling experiences for Matthew and Peter. And I think Matthew was so scared, he remembered it wrong. That sounds funny or impossible for inspired text, but it reads that way. Matthew mentions it, and moves on through. Mark (who’s source is thought to be Peter) dwells on it in great detail. Luke, who investigated these things thoroughly, uses Mark’s account primarily, and only leaves out a few details. This is a character from a “horror story” and the twelve found it troubling.
Calms Storms But Struggles With These Demons
The disciples had just come across the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calms this (possibly demonic) storm by telling the wind to “stop it!” and the waves to “hush!”. The disciples are amazed over Jesus’ command of the natural elements. They’re surprised because they’ve seen His power over human and spiritual elements, but not over nature. In our culture, we don’t easily make the connection. In their world, demons and disease were the work of lessor “gods”. But storms and the sea were part of the realm of the greater “gods”. Even in the Hebrew Scriptures, there is a distinction. So Jesus demonstrates His power over the realm of the “gods”. It’s truly impressive, at least until this gang of demons seems to start negotiations about leaving this man.
Maybe He Likes It Like That!
I love the joke about a guy who gets beat up in church…twice and by the same lady – well it’s a long joke, and this isn’t the place for it, but the punchline is “But I knew she liked it like that, so I tucked it back in.” (contact me offline if you want the rest of it) I have heard that the reason these demons were so “sticky” was that the man was so welcoming to them. He wanted them there, and so their control of him was thoroughly entrenched, more so than other demon-possessed people Jesus had met. And various support has been suggested for the view, like that he hung out in the tombs rather than a house (as if he liked it among the tombs, not the demons…I never understood that one). Based on the reaction of the man once free from these demons, I think this view is ridiculous and is more aimed at trying to address current social problems than appreciating the situation of this event.
Resistance In The Face Of Eventual Loss
I want to be clear here, the demons resist Jesus, they don’t defeat Him. They are going down, and they know it. They delay, postpone, and deflect their eventual loss wanting to minimize the effects, but they know they’re going to lose. It’s never a question in this story that the demons will lose. You never read it, and wonder, “Hm, will they end up remaining in the man?” You may wonder what will happen to the guy if they remained in the pigs, but there’s no doubt the demons will be leaving their current host. So it’s not that these demons fight back against Jesus to win, it’s that they delay their eventual obedience, and even change His mind about how they obey. No demon encounter in the Gospels or Acts has this element.
Ignoring The Bully
Today, we really clip right through this account, and wonder why Jesus doesn’t take the guy with Him. But it’s unsettling to remain here too long, we like Matthew’s account which is faster. We like to pick on the locals who ask Jesus to leave, and wonder why they had pigs in the first place. We do everything but take serious the warfare Jesus engaged in. Think about that. Such demons exist. I probably live in a community with one or two enclaves myself. But do I fight these seriously? No. Do I engage in a protracted defense? Not really. What’s wrong? Well, lots of things actually, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, I don’t because a long protracted warfare mentality is really inconvenient, and not what I want to do with my time right now…But I’m probably unique in that.
Battling From the Barracks
I struggle to get up in the morning. I struggle to pray for any length of time. I love Bible study as long as it interests me. But it doesn’t engross me like some movies that have no moral redeeming value. I confess that I love the things of this world. And as long as its convenient, I’ll do what it takes to, you know, fight the good fight, but from the barracks. Okay I’m exaggerating, but you know that’s what it looks like. Think about it. It would be like the enemy sweeping through the camp, and the soldiers just remain in their bunks and cots, ignoring the loss all around them. Sure, they lose, but they’re captive not dead. It could be worse, right? And so the enemy of our souls rages all around us, unhindered by our prayers, by our church activities, by our websites, by our anemic ministries.
Battling From The Foxholes
We need to get out of the barrack, and reestablish our perimeter. We need to improve our foxholes and be diligent about our defense. We need to employ variety in our weapons and depth in our coverage. We need to overlap our fire on the enemy and prevent our fire base from being the thoroughfare he’s been using it for. Enough with the battling from the barracks, it’s time to jump into foxholes, helmet on, weapon at the ready, extra ammo at our elbow and our fellow-warriors at our side. When will we stop letting our enemy come into our fire base and push us around? We’re children of the King of Glory! Get up! Grab your weapon and take your stand! I know it’s early, I know you’re tired, and I know your DAD! And He doesn’t like His children lounging around while His world is being torn up by a defeated foe! I’d clang a metal trash can and lid through your barracks if I could, but this is what I can do for you, a literary kick to the seat of your pants! Move! Suit Up! Roll Out!
The Offensive Front Line
But we’re not done when the perimeter is established. Jesus didn’t just go, “Oh, you’re a big one. Well, as long as you know Who I am and that I’m King, we’re good.” Jesus met resistance, and pushed. In fact Jesus used the negotiation against His enemy. The pigs died, and the demons left the area anyway (at least I think they did – not sure where they actually went). He went on the offensive, and so should we. Paul calls us to stand and pray, stand and fight. We wear God’s armor, and no, it really doesn’t fit, but it’s powerful. We wear the armor for the purpose of engaging the enemy, so let’s get after it! Suit up! Get in line, and stand and fight! The gates of hell can’t stand against us, but that means we have to advance to take advantage of their weakness. Pour through the gates of hell and we will see our King rescue souls! The enemy can’t stop us.
So What Will You Do?
So, the gates of hell are no opposition to you, but will you stay in the barracks? Will I? We are called to stand with the armor of God and fight, will you? Will you pray? Will you study war and engage? Will you kick in the gates of hell and take the fight to him? Yeah, you may have to put down your coffee. I know it’s early. Sure you don’t know what to say. So shut up and listen. Listen to the voice of your King. Worship Him. Declare Jesus is Lord and Master. Declare His righteousness, His glory, His love for His people and those languishing in prison. Then pray for those He brings to mind. Pray for those people and events; forget your distractions, your work, your car, the weather, and that your coffee is cold. Get after it!
Oh, and take a quick break and tell me what you see through the knothole. Then get back at it!