2nd Sunday after Pentecost
June 23, 2019
“Who Is In Control Here?”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Gospel lesson from Luke 8.
My dear friends,
For modern, enlightened, technologically-advanced folks like ourselves, we dismiss talk of demons and demonic activity as reflecting an old, primitive worldview; “the people in the Bible didn’t know any better, but we do.” Do we? Do we really? Who is in control here?
For the people of Jesus’ time—indeed, for Jesus himself—demons and demonic possession were an every day reality. Know how many times the word “Demon” shows up in the Gospels? 60 times! Casting out demons was a most significant aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Are demons real? Absolutely! One must be careful not to overreact, however. Some people see a demon behind every scary bush, every offensive song lyric, every naughty website. But don’t go too far the other way and just assume that in our modern world the demons packed it up and went “bye-bye.” Satan’s greatest accomplishment was to get Adam and Eve to rebel against God and introduce sin into the world. His greatest trick was to convince the world that he isn’t real. No one ever fights against what we don’t believe is there. So…who is in control here?
Where Jesus is frequently met by crowds, in this particular instance in Luke 8, he is met by only one man. The reasons for this become immediately clear. There is no crowd because they know this naked maniac resides there. The man is completely out of control and on the verge of self-destruction, one who is already living among the tombs in the midst of death—perhaps a death that he himself longed for at times.
The demon identifies itself as “Legion.” A Roman legion’s official strength was anywhere from 3000 to 6000 men; an overwhelming force has overtaken this man. It is clear that the man is not in control in any way. If he had moments of clarity, imagine the depth of this man’s burden and defenselessness and vulnerability and helplessness; you think he wanted to be this way? No way! That’s not the life he wanted for himself and no doubt he very much knew he wasn’t in control; he was in control of nothing.
The Gerasene demoniac is more like us than we may realize. “No way,” you no doubt reply, “I’m not possessed by a demon and I’m in control of my life.” Is that right? Granted, I’ve not seen any signs of demonic possession, but how in control are you really? The idea that we’re “in control” in life is an illusion. We put on a “brave face” for everyone else – so everyone can see “shiny, happy people” – but in truth most of us under that paper-thin veneer, are barely keeping it all together. It wouldn’t take much for the whole house of cards to come down, would it? So I ask again…who is in control here?
Our “demons” aren’t bogey-men who hide around dark corners. They are far more insidious, more subtle but every bit as dangerous and exponentially more scary. They drag your mind to some very dark and unpleasant places. Events “just happen,” and next thing you know, BLAM! You’re living a life of isolation – from God and other people – living amid the tombs of pain and regret and anxiety and worry and uncertainty. And there is always – ALWAYS – sinful rebellion against God that keeps us isolated, bound, and on the verge of losing control. So, who is in control here?
My dear friends, it’s during the darkness and pain and shame and uncertainty that we are called to remember that the word of Christ is eternally authoritative; it changes our tragic sinful human realities. Consider what happened. There was no magic wand, no holy hand grenade. Jesus speaks. He speaks and the man is clothed, in his right mind, and he gets to go home. Who is in control? JESUS IS IN CONTROL! He always has been and always is. Even the cross of Christ shows that He is in control. Through his innocent suffering and death, He reverses Satan’s accomplishments. Sin and death are resolved; Satan has no more cards to play. Your sins are forgiven, you are restored to God. He is in control.
It is here – Church – that we are ever mindful of the power of God’s Word. Through the teaching and preaching of Christ’s eternally authoritative Word, through the Word in and with the bread and wine, and the water in Baptism we see who is REALLY in control. In Baptism, you’re no longer a naked maniac running around. God clothed you in the righteousness of Christ, forgave your sins, marked you as one redeemed by Christ, and welcomed you home.
However, before we start “high-fiving” each other in Christian victory, let’s not forget. A significant human failure also appears in this text. The townspeople come out and they see the man clothed and in his right mind and the herd of swine bobbing in the sea. Their response to this control exerted by Jesus? They ask Jesus to leave their region. They are afraid to be too close to him. Sound familiar? We want God to be in control, but not TOO MUCH in control. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of all is to see God at work and pretend nothing has really happened. Or we vacillate the other way. It’s neither God nor a demon; we assume stuff “just happens” because God doesn’t really work in our lives any more than demons do.
We are so technologically advanced that it’s almost too easy to dismiss texts like todays. By faith we know that God is in control. As Christ came to us through Baptism, and as He continues to come to us through His Word and Sacraments, He remains with us always, completely, and totally in control. Now…go live like God is in control of your life, proclaiming all that God has done for you in Christ.