Freed To Serve A New Master—Luke 8:26-39, #037

INTRODUCTION

 

What enslaves you? Even as a Christian, you have ideas or attitudes or traditions that you hold that are like the weights in Hebrews 12:1—they aren’t necessarily wrong, but they weigh you down. 

 

Or worse, maybe you have some legalistic ideas that you can’t break free from—perhaps they cause you to gossip about other Christians that don’t think the same way or cause you to church hop, looking for a group of people, who, in fact, are enslaved to the same legalistic ideas. 

 

So, what enslaves you?

 

In this passage, we will see…

 

A MAN ENSLAVED TO DEMONS

 

Jesus and his disciples, after enduring a sudden windstorm, had crossed the Sea of Galilee…

 

Luke 8:26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes [GAD-er-RENES], which is over against Galilee. 

 

Gadarenes was part of a larger area to the east of the Sea of Galilee called the Decapolis. It had a largely Gentile population.

 

Luke 8:27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. 

 

There came to Jesus a man with demons. (Matthew says that there were two men, and there were, but Luke is focused on just this one.) In verse 30, we find that his name (or perhaps the chief demon’s name) was Legion, “because many devils were entered into him.” 

 

A Legion was a large group of Roman soldiers which, depending on the time period, could number from three to eight thousand men. Mark tells us that there were “about two thousand” (Mark 5:13) pigs that the demons entered into later in the story. So we don’t know exactly how many demons were in him, but this poor guy was full of them.

 

The effect of this demon-possession was that he “ware no clothes” and lived “in the tombs.”  

 

He found a home in the cemetery. In those days, tombs were caves where the bones of the dead were kept in small boxes called ossuaries. Bodies that were not yet decomposed were laid on a slab until such time as the bones could be collected. The man could have found an unoccupied slab to use as a bed (and you thought Motel 6 was bad)!

 

And in verse 29, we learn that he had great physical strength because of the demonic power that enslaved him:

 

Luke 8:29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) 

 

This poor man was driven away from society by Satan. His condition made people fear him. Can you imagine how lonely he must have been? 

 

Why did there seem to be so much demon possession going on during Jesus’s time on earth? Well, if you were Satan and you knew that the Lord was walking the earth as a man, wouldn’t you ramp up your demonic presence? I think that Satan threw everything he had at Jesus while he was on earth. I mean, don’t you think filling a guy with a couple thousand or more demons is overdoing it a bit? It would be, unless, of course, you thought that you might doing battle with the Lord of the Universe.

 

The man comes up to Jesus. Mark 6:6 says “when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him.” It’s interesting that he came to Jesus—he ran to Jesus. Why? Wouldn’t a demon-possessed man flee from Jesus? It gets more confusing when you read the next verse:

 

Luke 8:28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. 

 

Why would he run up to Jesus—whom, by the way, he recognizes as the “Son of God most high”—and beg him not to torment him?  Why isn’t he running and hiding? Why does he run up to Jesus and fall at his feet and (as Mark says) worship Jesus?

 

Another question is, who is in control at this point? The pronoun is singular, not plural, as it is in verse 31 and 32, suggesting that it’s the man himself who is in control. 

 

But he wouldn’t know that Jesus was the Son of God, whereas the demons would recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Additionally, Matthew has plural pronouns at this point, indicating that the demons are speaking.

 

I think that what this indicates is that there is a struggle going on inside the man. He wants freedom from the demons. He somehow is attracted to Jesus—he senses that there is something about Jesus. Yet, at the same time, there’s a fear of Jesus. There’s a tension between the control of the demons and the man’s desire to be free of the demons.

 

Maybe you’ve encountered unbelievers who feel this tension. They want to come to Jesus Christ, but they are afraid of what he will do to them. Perhaps they are afraid that, if they trust in Christ, their friends and family will mock them. Or, they may have to give up their “fun” things that they do. Or, they are afraid that they won’t seem intellectual if they become a Christian. 

 

Whether demon-possessed or not, people struggle with the attractiveness of Jesus and the fear of the potential changes that he will bring to their life as a result of trusting in him. Jesus himself warned people to consider this when coming to him—

 

26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:26–28)

 

Christians sometimes wonder why people have such a hard time accepting the free gift of salvation. 

 

Partly, it’s because, properly understood, that free gift will change your life after you accept it. The gift looks attractive—most gifts do, in their wrapping paper and colorful bows—but this gift will change you.

 

The difficulty people have is that tension between the attractiveness of Jesus and the potential of change, so dramatically illustrated by the man filled with demons who ran to Jesus and yet shouted, “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.”

 

Luke 8:30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 

Luke 8:31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. 

 

We’ve already mentioned that the meaning of the name, “Legion,”  indicates that there were many—thousands—of demons in the man. What is interesting here is that they beg Jesus not to “command them to go out into the deep.” The “deep” in this case refers to the “Abyss,” the place of the dead and demons in the Old Testament, but which seems here to refer to the final fate of Satan and his demons.

 

Matthew 8:29 gives us a fuller reading on what they said: “art thou come hither to torment us before the time” (Matthew 8:29)? The demons know what will eventually happen to them. They know that they are destined for eternal punishment. Jesus says in Matthew 25—

 

…Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41; cf. Revelation 20:10)

 

 

Luke 8:32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. 

 

Jews, of course, would not typically raise pigs. But this area—the Decapolis—was a Gentile area. We are not told anything about the actual owners. They could have been nonpracticing Jews that sold the pigs to Gentiles, or they could have been Gentiles.

 

Why did the demons want to go into the pigs? Perhaps a better question is, why didn’t Jesus just destroy the demons? 

 

The first question, why pigs? Because they were there. The demons knew that Jesus wouldn’t allow them to enter into another human being. They knew that Jewish dietary law forbade pigs (Leviticus 11:7), and so they figured that Jesus, a Jew himself, would be more likely to allow them to go into pigs. Sure enough, Jesus “suffered” or allowed them to enter the pigs.

 

Why didn’t Jesus just destroy the demons? For the same reason he doesn’t destroy all evil today: it’s not time yet. The demons (in Matthew 8:29) know this. The delay of God’s justice is not an indicator of the absence of God’s justice (Denny Burk). It’s just not time yet.

 

Luke 8:33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked [drowned]. 

 

The sudden possession of the pigs by the demons apparently drove the pigs insane and they raced down a steep hill or over a cliff into the Sea of Galilee where they drowned.

 

There are those who object to what they see as moral problems with this event. Some, especially these days in our climate of animal rights activism, say that it was immoral of Jesus to allow all those innocent pigs to be killed.

 

Another objection that people raise is that it wasn’t right for Jesus to destroy the possessions and livelihood of the owners of the pigs. We live in a ranching area, so this objection has some bite to it. Imagine losing your whole herd.

 

How do we defend Jesus against these objections? Much has been suggested:

 

1. The pigs were unclean animals according to the law, so it was appropriate that unclean demons possessed them.

 

2. The owners could have been Jews raising pigs illegally (cf. Leviticus 11:7), so it was divine justice.

 

3. Others point out that the demons were the ones who chose the pigs, so they are at fault, not Jesus.

 

Perhaps, but don’t miss the display of Jesus’s authority that we are seeing here. He has authority over the demons and he has authority over the pigs and he has authority over the owners of the pigs, whoever they are.

 

I know that will not satisfy an unbeliever, because they do not care about Jesus’s authority. They demand to be on equal ground with Jesus, and if they can’t have that, then Jesus must go. Which, by the way, is what happens in the next scene.

 

A MAN FREED TO SERVE JESUS

 

Luke 8:34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. 

Luke 8:35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid

Luke 8:36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 

Luke 8:37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 

 

The unbelievers here did not have a positive reaction to Jesus. Despite the fact that a man had been rescued from demons and healed, they were in great fear of Jesus and demanded that he leave. No one came forward and asked that he heal them also. No one said, “I have a friend who is like this man was, come and heal him.” 

 

Some suggest that they were upset with the financial loss of the pigs, and I am sure they were. But it doesn’t say they were angry, it says they were “afraid.” What were they afraid of? I think we have to say that it was Jesus’s authority. The pigs crashing into the lake was a financial loss, but it also displayed Jesus’s power and authority. It showed them how Jesus could step in and change someone’s life. 

 

Most of us, by our human nature, like the status quo to stay the same in our lives. Having someone come in and disrupt our lives is not appreciated.

 

I wonder how many unbelievers don’t come to Jesus because they like their lives to stay the same. They know that there’s some immoral behavior that will have to change—maybe they are sleeping with with their boyfriend or girlfriend. 

 

Or, perhaps they are afraid of the status quo of their family situation changing. They know their parents or their spouse won’t like it one bit.

 

If you aren’t a believer, I encourage you to not let your fear of the status quo changing keep you from receiving Jesus as your Savior. The changes he makes in your life will be worth it, even if some of them are painful and difficult. Coming to Jesus isn’t a bed of roses, but it’s worth it.

 

But this fear of Jesus changing things also happens with believers. We can be afraid of the status quo changing. It happens, for instance, when Jesus starts adding people to a church. Some people feel threatened and afraid that their position, or the things that they like will change. They might even say something like, “I’m glad the church has a heart for evangelism, but all these new people make me uncomfortable” 1

 

There is a movie called, In His Steps, that is based on a book by the same name. In the movie (there’s actually two and both are very good, this is from the newer one), a group of Christians are challenged to follow Jesus more closely by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” before making any decision for a year. 

 

The movie is about their struggles to give up what they thought was important for what Jesus would have them do. In short, it’s about them submitting to his authority in their life.

 

One young lady, in her early twenties, Virginia, lives with her grandmother, Beatrice. The grandmother doesn’t care so much about the pledge to do what Jesus would do. All she cares about is being comfortable and keeping things the same. Acting on the Pastor’s suggestion, Virginia and her friends decide to help in a soup kitchen in the bad part of the city called the Rectangle.

 

Angry, the grandmother pays the pastor a visit in his office. This is is how the scene plays out:

 

Grandmother: Virginia went to the Rectangle last night.

 

Pastor: Did she? Good.

 

Grandmother: It’s good that she could have had her car stolen? Or good that she could have been robbed or worse?

 

Pastor: Beatrice, did you listen to Virginia when she told you what she did, or did you stop listening when you found out where she went?

 

Grandmother: No, I certainly—

 

Pastor: I understand your concern for Virginia’s safety and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I believe that Virginia is looking for something that’s been missing from her life for a long time. Maybe you should try listening to her. And honestly, I am glad that someone in this church is finally willing to do something that doesn’t involve this building. 

 

Grandmother: I understand what you’re trying to do, Henry, but just be careful, I’ve been going to this church for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of pastors come and go over the years. I don’t see any need for changes around here, and you should think long and hard before you try and make any.

 

Sometimes we have legalistic ideas—we think we are defending Jesus—but actually we’re keeping him in a box, so that we can feel more comfortable.

 

As believers, we need to put Jesus and his mission first, even above our own comfort. Jesus encourages us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). That means that you’ll need to drop the things that you think are important when those things stand in the way of God’s kingdom advancing here on earth.

 

What are the areas of your life that you want to keep Jesus away from? Perhaps those pig farmers had financial wealth as an idol and they determined to keep Jesus away from it. What are your idols? Is it a possession that you own? Is it a sin—maybe a so called, “light sin” like gossiping? Is it a legalistic attachment to a tradition or a way of doing things? 

 

Don’t be afraid of Jesus. He will change your life, and he will keep changing it until the day you die, but don’t be afraid of what he will do to you.

 

A MAN EAGER TO TELL OTHERS

 

Luke 8:38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 

Luke 8:39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.

 

The man, probably a Gentile, requested that he be able to join Jesus and his disciples on their travels. That’s natural. If I had been that man, I would have jumped at the chance to follow Jesus and learn at his feet.

 

But surprisingly, Jesus tells him that his application has been denied. Rather he is to go back to his “own house”—his family—and tell them what Jesus had done for him. And that is exactly what the man does, telling others the “great things Jesus had done unto him.”

 

What were these great things? Look back at verse 35—

 

Luke 8:35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 

 

He was “sitting at the feet of Jesus.” Disciples sit at the feet of their teachers. This is what happened to the man, he had become a disciple of Jesus.

 

He was “clothed.” Satan’s goal is to strip and expose and tear down. Even if Satan gives a person power and riches for a time (and only to serve his purposes), his ultimate goal is to strip them for eternity in Hell. That the man was clothed shows us that he was free from Satan’s clutches.

 

The man was “in his right mind.” His life and mind and heart was no longer under the control of the demons. He was free from their slavery. He was freed to serve Jesus, and that he did—the man eagerly told other people about what Jesus had done for him. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

What enslaves you? If you are not a believer, you are enslaved by Satan. No, you may not be demon-possessed, but you follow Satan’s principle of rebelling against God. That’s what the Bible calls sin.

 

And because sin is rebelling against God, an infinite, almighty God, the penalty for that sin is eternal death—in the same place where the Satan and his demons are going to end up.

 

Only by running to Christ, falling at his feet and placing your trust in him can you be freed from Satan’s slavery.

 

If you are a believer here today, there may be other things that still enslave you. You have a relationship with Jesus Christ, but is it clouded by your enslavement to favorite sins or distracting weights? 

 

Let me challenge you to ask the question from In His Steps more often: What Would Jesus Do? The next time you are upset and enslaved to your anger about a situation—ask, what would Jesus do? The next time your pride is hurt—ask, what would Jesus do? The next time things don’t go your way—ask, what would Jesus do?

 

You see, Jesus has set us free from all that—but we choose to remain in that slavery. We can step out of that slavery when we ask, what would Jesus do? Then we should depend on him to help us do it. And when we do, we will be freed to serve Jesus.

 

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1 Bruce B. Barton et al., Luke, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997), 218.

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