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COLUMN: Jesus, tamer of demons

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By Steve Gettinger

Today’s scripture reference comes from Luke 8:26-39:
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 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. Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored him to permit them to enter the swine. And he gave them permission. And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened.
Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and he got into a boat and returned. But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging him that he might accompany him; but he sent him away, saying,
“Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
In the Gospel lesson it says that Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gerasenes. When they landed they were confronted by a demon-possessed man. He roamed the cemetery, he wore no clothes, and the local people were unable to restrain him even with chains.
Jesus showed his power over the demon when he spoke to it. Even though demons are the sworn enemies of God, they must obey his command. When the Lord commanded them to leave the man, they had no choice but to leave. The only question was where to go. The demon asked Jesus to allow it to inhabit a nearby herd of pigs. When Jesus gave it permission to enter, the pigs who promptly stampeded into the lake and drowned. The Bible does not tell us what happened to the demons after the pigs drowned.
Whenever the topic of demons comes up, some peoples’ imaginations tend to get carried away. Our culture and the movie industry tend to encourage people to speculate about demons and most of the time they get things wrong.
The Bible is pretty clear that demons were once angels. God created angels sometime during the six days of creation. Soon after the creation a group of angels rebelled against God. God immediately condemned these rebellious angels casting them out of heaven along with their pride filled leader the devil. The Bible refers to these evil angels by several different names: fallen angels, unclean spirits, evil spirits, demons, and so forth.
Since demons are fallen angels, they are spiritual beings; that is, they do not have physical bodies. They desire to inhabit living physical bodies, which is why the man in Luke 8 was possessed. I would like to point out that a Christian can never be possessed by a demon, because Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them. God’s Holy Spirit will not coexist with a demon.
Demons cannot win against God in a direct attack, so they must find some other way to express their hatred of God. The battlefield in their war against God is the human race.
A demon’s main weapon is deception as Jesus said, When [the devil] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44). It wouldn’t be much of a temptation if the devil appeared to us dressed in red body armor with horns and a pitch fork, and smelled like smoke. Demons present temptations in ways that seem to make sense to our sinful nature. As the Apostle Paul wrote, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14b).
In Eden, the devil used a serpent to tempt Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit and sin. From that time on, every human being inherits a sinful nature at conception as the Holy Spirit inspired David to write, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalms 51:5.)
Many in our culture don’t believe demons exist. It doesn’t bother the demons one bit if people do not believe in them, it makes their job easier.
*Demons don’t care if there are churches on every corner as long as the churches don’t talk about sin and its punishment or Jesus and His salvation.
*Demons don’t care if we talk about Jesus as long as Jesus is just a nice guys who fed the poor, taught nice moral principles, liberated people from oppression, and brought unity to people groups. The only Jesus that the devil hates is the Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and then rose from the dead in order to show His victory over sin, death, and the devil.
Demons don’t always identify themselves by driving pigs into a lake. Sometimes they inhabit people who look like grandmas and grandpas. They inhabit people who look respectable on the outside and seem very nice. Just like dangerous strangers who tempt children with candy, demon-possessed people tempt us with the things we like. It is their goal to make us feel very comfortable traveling down the path to hell with them.
There is only one person who has ever totally and utterly defeated the devil. That person is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
-He is the only one who endured every temptation that the devil could throw his way and yet, never sinned.
-He is the only person that endured the forsakenness of hell for us as he died on a cross for our sins.
-He is the only one who was crucified for the forgiveness of all sins and raised from the dead – the only person to defeat the devil and who offers that victory to us by faith in him.
The real lesson that I hope you learn from Luke 8 is that Jesus is the one who exposes demons and deals with them. The same Jesus Christ who demonstrated His power over demons in today’s Gospel from Luke 8 has defeated the devil once and for all on the cross. Trust in Jesus. Trust in his holy life, his innocent suffering and death, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven. Jesus is the only one who can help you when you are attacked by the devil. Jesus is the only one who can give you eternal life. Trust in Jesus Christ the crucified one who is risen from the dead. Amen.