In Luke chapter 8, Jesus does some pretty awesome stuff. I’ve read this passage countless times but the Holy Spirit preached it to me from a different angle this morning.
The story of Jesus healing the man possessed by “Legion,” or a multitude of demons, has always intrigued me. I’m a psychology nerd, so how this man goes from Naked-As-A-Jaybird Crazy to Fully-Clothed-and-Calm-Sane is pretty astounding.
After walking all over Galilee teaching and announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God, Jesus and the disciples take a boat trip to the Gerasene country to continue their message. This is the boat ride where Jesus sleeps through a storm while the disciples freak out.
Jesus famously tells the winds to “quiet down” and asks the disciples to get a grip. (That’s my interpretation. Jesus actually asked them, “Where is your faith?”) (vs. 22-25)
They are awed by Him and His wind-calming ability. Little did they know, Jesus was about to take it to a whole ‘nother level.
Once they arrive on the other side of the lake they are immediately met by Legion. Before the man can say “boo”, Jesus is already commanding the demons to leave him. Jesus knew exactly who this guy was and every demon that was tormenting him.
Jesus knows exactly who you are and the demons you’re wrestling, too.
The demons knew who Jesus was, as well, and they were terrified. “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of God Most High? Please, I beg you, oh, don’t torment me!” (vs. 28)
They begin to beg Jesus not to send them to “the Bottomless Pit,” and ask instead for Him to allow them to enter a nearby herd of pigs. (vs. 31-32)
Demons asked Jesus to have mercy on them and He did.
How wonderful do you have to be to grant mercy to demons?! I struggle to grant mercy to my husband for leaving the seat up, much less a herd of demons. Seriously, who does that?
Only Jesus does that and like the disciples, I am awestruck. His compassion and mercy—I want more. Not just to cover my own shortcomings, I want more to give away.
Jesus heard the request of demons.
If Jesus will hear and grant the request of good-for-nothing-low-life demons, I can have full confidence He will hear the request of His beloved-called-for-a-purpose children.
Just be careful what you ask for. After the demons entered the pigs, the entire herd rushed down the mountains side, fell over a cliff and drown in the lake. (vs. 33)
This shocked and completely terrified the herdsmen. Their entire herd—their livelihood—just drowned before their eyes. This livestock provided for their families. What Jesus just did was not exciting for them; it was devastating.
So of course, they high-tail it back to town and tell everyone what just happened. Not that the crazy man was healed, but that all their pigs just died. (vs. 34)
A crowd returns with them to check out the action and they find the demon-possessed man “sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, clothed and sane! And the whole crowd was badly frightened.” (vs. 35)
Amazing. These people knew who the demon-possessed man was. Like, they actually knew his first name. They knew his family. They knew he lived in the cemetery and never wore clothes. In fact, they were probably scared of the dude because, Hello! He was a crazy, naked guy who lived in a cemetery!
And yet, they see him sane and dressed and they were afraid. My mind…I can’t…process…this.
“Then those who had seen it happen told how the [man] had been healed. And everyone begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone…” (vs. 37a)
Fear makes you ask for stupid things.
The demons were afraid and begged Jesus to send them into pigs who would drown them. Now the people were afraid and begged Him for something even stupider. (Incorrect grammar makes my point stronger, okay?)
Wouldn’t you think they would be excited, thanking Jesus for saving this man and ridding their community of evil?
The Message translation explains this best, I think.
“Later, a great many people…asked Jesus to leave—too much change, too fast, and they were scared.” (vs. 37)
Okay, ouch. I guess I’ve been where these people are…more than once. I am a creature of habit and I do not enjoy change.
Sometimes I ask God for stupid things because I think I know what’s best. Sometimes I’d rather live with the crazy-naked-cemetery dude than face the change Jesus brings.
So once again, Jesus shows mercy to the poor, stupid souls around him and honors their request. Rather than force himself on them, “He returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake.” (vs. 37b)
Because Jesus is a gentleman.
The only sane one in the bunch was the formerly-crazy man. Being totally in his right mind, the man begged Jesus to take him along.
But Jesus knew this guy now had an irrefutable testimony, a story only his life could tell. (vs. 38-39) The people were afraid of Jesus, but they just might listen to The Crazy Guy.
“On the other side of the lake the crowds received [Jesus] with open arms, for they had been waiting for Him.” (vs. 40)
There are two sides to every lake.
On one side of the lake, Jesus was met by The Town Nut and all his demons. On the other side, He was met by an eager, expectant crowd-full of needs.
On one side of the lake, Jesus was a bother who stirred up trouble and ruined farms. On the other side, He was a miracle-worker, welcomed with “open arms.”
One side asked Him to leave; the other asked Him to stay.
Which side do you live on?
Honestly, I have a home on both shores. Some days I welcome Jesus and fully embrace all the change He brings. Surrender comes natural and my soul is all “where He leads me I will follow.”
But then there are days I’m a pig farmer with a different address.
I’m controlling and planned and change is not an option because Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That. I’ve got things to do and places to be, so Jesus just needs to get on board.
I forget I was once The Town Nut miraculously saved by grace and I have a story to tell.
Chapter 8 ends on the welcoming side of the lake and the things Jesus did for them are UH-MAZING; a sick woman is healed by simply touching His robe (vs.43-44) and a dead 12-year-old girl is brought back to life. (vs. 54-55)
Both sides of the lake were visited by Jesus. Both sides witnessed miracles. Both were blessed.
One side felt harmed; the other, healed. It was the people’s choice as to what they received.
Which side of the lake will I choose to live on today?
Jesus, thank You for knowing I have a home on both sides of the lake and for visiting me regardless of where I am. Help me receive You with open arms today. I want to feel healed by what You’re doing, not harmed. On the days I’m living like a pig farmer, remind me I was once The Town Nut and help me share my story of You. Thank You for Your awesome forgiveness and mercy and compassion toward me; I so desperately need it. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.