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Storm on Lake and Gerasene Demoniac

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Luke 8:22-35
Evening Prayer 6.00pm
SMAS (12.02.2012)

Sometimes when I have spent some time with a group of people preparing for Confirmation, and even more so when I get back from the annual national youth camp I help run each summer, I think that those I have been teaching actually know a whole lot more than most of the regular congregation.

Our Gospel passage comes after Jesus has just done lots of teaching via parables. Probably the disciples felt like they were experts at all of this faith business! And, truth be told they did in fact know a whole lot more than the scribes and the rabbis. Actually having been with Jesus for a concentrated time they probably knew more than the Old Testament prophets even!

What they, and we, did not realize is that faith must be tested before it can be trusted. It is one thing to learn a new spiritual truth, but something else totally different to put that truth, that faith into the everyday experiences of life.

Satan doesn’t care how much Bible truth we learn so long as we don’t live it. Truth that is only in the head is purely academic and never will get into the heart until it is practiced by the will. “Doing the will of God from the heart” is what God wants from His children (Ephesians 6:6). Satan knows that academic truth is not dangerous, but active living truth is.

And in this Gospel passage we see what it is actually like to live out faith in the real world, a place where the devil still has some sway. And it is no different today this passage can teach us a lot about how to face up to the challenges that life throws at us. Jesus shows us how to meet these challenges of faith and come out on the winning side.

But perhaps the first thing to take note of is that the Devil will always use very opportune moments: either when we are tired or when we are on a bit of a spiritual high. Always! When I come back from working on youth camp each summer I always come back a) exhausted because they are hard work and b) on a spiritual high because I will have been with people who have just become a Christian or just made a very significant move forward in their faith.

This is exhilarating enough but I also find the worship on camp to be so spiritually uplifting and is always, for me, a place of a real and deep meeting with God. Either of these two things, tiredness or having experienced real movements of faith means you are in to dangerous circumstances. Put both of those things together and you are into very dangerous circumstances in deed.

So here we have Jesus, weary from a long day of teaching and going to sleep as the ship left Capernaum for the opposite shore. Before they set out He tells them that they are going to the opposite shore. This word, which coming as it did from Jesus, was also a word of promise and as such should have encouraged and strengthened the disciples during the storm. Their faith however, was still small, and, because of the nature of the Sea of Galilee it is understandable that they were fearful.

A tour group was sailing from Tiberias to Capernaum, and the leader asked the guide if he’d even been in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. “Yes, and I hope it never happens to me again!” The situation is such that sudden squalls occur as winds from the mountains funnel to the lake located 600 feet below sea level. When the cold air and warm air meet in this natural basin, a storm is sure to develop.

Here we have a boat full of fishermen who were quite sure they were going to drown. Perhaps they couldn’t swim. Apparently in Nelson’s day, many sailors would never learn to swim. They would rather get over the process of drowning more quickly.  Doesn’t stop you being afraid though does it?

The disciples were afraid, but Jesus was not! He kept on sleeping, confident that His Father was completely in control. The disciples became so frightened that they awakened Him and begged Him to rescue them. Of course, their problem was not the storm around them but the unbelief within them. Actually, their unbelief was more dangerous than the storm!

The word rebuked was a word used by Jesus when dealing with demons. It is possible that Satan was behind this severe storm, attempting to destroy Jesus or at least hinder Him from reaching the demonized men at Gadara. Or maybe to make the disciples doubt. But Jesus calmed both the wind and the sea by simply speaking the word. Usually after the winds die down, the waves remain rough for hours; but in this instance, everything became calm immediately and stayed that way.

The disciples failed this test of faith because they had not fully relied on Jesus’ words that He was going to the other side. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of circumstances; it is obeying in spite of feelings and consequences. The disciples looked around and saw danger, and looked within and saw fear; but they failed to look up by faith and see God. Faith and fear cannot dwell together in the same heart.

Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”
Isaiah 12:2, “Behold God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.”

When Jesus lands at Gadara He is met by a demon possessed man. A pitiful case: naked, living in the tombs, violent, dangerous, a menace to the area, and controlled by a legion of demons. (A Roman legion could have as many as 6,000 men!)

This dramatic incident is most revealing. It shows what Satan does for a man: robs him of sanity and self-control; fills him with fears; robs him of the joys of home and friends; and (if possible) condemns him to an eternity of judgment. It also reveals what society does for a man in need: restrains him, isolates him, threatens him, but society is unable to change him. See, then, what Jesus Christ can do for a man whose whole life—within and without—is bondage and battle. What Jesus did for this demon possessed man, He will do for anyone else who needs Him.

The New Testament uses the word ‘demons’. Many Christians today skip swiftly over this and simply say that Jesus healed a schizophrenic. But from experience I can tell you that Satan is the thief (John 10:10) who robs his people of everything good and then tries to destroy them. No amount of man-made authority or restraint can control or change the devil’s servants. Their only hope is in the Saviour.

Demons have faith (James 2:19), but it is not saving faith. They believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God with authority to command them. They believe in a future judgment and are afraid of it even because they know it will be a place of torment to which Jesus could send them (“the abyss,” Luke 8:31). They also believe in prayer, for the demons begged Jesus not to send them to the abyss. They asked to be sent into the pigs, and Jesus granted their request.

Did Jesus have the right to permit the legion of demons to destroy a herd of 2,000 swine and perhaps put the owners out of business? The fact that the demons destroyed 2000 pigs is nothing compared with the fact that Jesus delivered two men from the powers of Satan. God owns everything and can do with it as He pleases. Jesus values this man more than pigs. He brought peace to the man and to the community where, for a longtime, they had been causing trouble. The community should have thanked Jesus for ridding their neighborhood of this menace, but instead, they begged Him to leave!

What a transformation in this man! You would have expected the people who saw the miracle to ask Jesus to stay and heal others who were sick and afflicted. Apparently worldly things, such as money earned from the pigs, was more important to them than mercy, and they asked Jesus to leave.

The former demoniac kept pleading with Jesus to be allowed to travel with Him and help Him. A noble desire from a newly converted man! He had more spiritual discernment than all the other citizens put together. The man was not yet ready to become a disciple, but he could serve Jesus as a witness, starting at home among his Gentile relatives and friends. Jesus did not want Jews who had been healed to say too much about it, but it was safe for the Gentiles to tell others what Jesus had done for them, and that is what he did.

In both situations though Jesus restored peace from chaos. In the stilling of the storm the disciples could have shared in Christ’s peace without needing the absence of the storm - and it is good to know that. But of course He did in that instance still the storm - He did away with the chaos. But peace does not have to be in the absence of chaos for those who are ‘in’ Christ can have ‘His’ peace. Christ’s peace is also the peace of the conquest that Christ achieves and which we can share in by faith.

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