Great Evil, Greater Power l Luke 8:22-39 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
Over the last two weeks, we have had a Chinese spy balloon traverse our nation before finally being shot down…and at least three other unidentified “objects” that were also “decommissioned.” Whether or not the last three are of Chinese origin is unclear, but one thing does seem clear: we are being tested. Probed. Our resolve is being evaluated. An international flexing of muscles to see who is toughest. If so, if China is bullying us, it remains to be seen how we will respond…and we ought to be in prayer for our government leaders as they weigh their response to this provocation.
In today’s twin passages, Jesus faces two violent provocations from his arch enemy, the Devil; the Evil One. These two stories may seem unrelated, but they are not; they are bookends. They ask…and answer…the most important question to be found in the New Testament. And…they reveal a titanic spiritual battle between Jesus and the Uber bully, Satan, whose bluster withers before the Master of all things. As we look at these two passages, watch for that important question… and the answer. Then, I will make two points. Evil is more evil than we know. And, Jesus is stronger than we imagine.
“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, 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 many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.” Luke 8:22-33
The first time I visited Israel in 1984, I remember vividly my trip to the Sea of Galilee. As we drove along the shoreline road, we saw the same sign staggered every few hundred yards. It said, “Beware of western winps.” Aside from the unfortunate misspelling, it was a modern reminder of an historic problem. Galilee is notorious for sudden, violent winds that descend from the eastern mountain ranges and turn a placid lake into a maelstrom in only minutes. I have experienced it. One moment, quiet and peaceful; the next moment, huge winds and waves.
Of course, this was nothing new to Jesus’ disciples. Four of them were fisherman. They were used to the sudden shifts in the weather. But they had never seen anything like this. As they rowed exhausted Jesus across the lake, the elements turned violent. Even the seasoned fishermen were so terrified that they woke Jesus from his much-needed nap with these hysterical words: “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
What amazes me…and apparently amazed the disciples…was the matter-of-fact way Jesus responded. It doesn’t even say he stood up in order to make himself appear more imposing. He simply rebuked the wind and the waves…and they were suddenly calm. Anyone who knows the story of Jonah…will recognize the analogy. But in Jonah’s case, he had to be thrown overboard to calm the seas. In Jesus’ case…he simply speaks to the storm…and it is done.
But here’s what I want to point out. The word “rebuke” is actually an exorcism word; the same word used to describe the casting out of evil spirits. Luke is saying this wasn’t any garden variety storm…as the disciples’ terror attested. This was a spiritual attack; an effort by Satan to harm or kill Jesus and his disciples. But with a word of rebuke…no incantations…no dramatics…apparently not even bothering to rise from his comfortable cushion…no, with a single word, Jesus brings Satan’s storm to its knees.