March 1, 2019
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.
A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
The greatest strategy of evil? To convince us Satan is not real. The second greatest strategy of evil? To convince us Satan is everywhere.
Evil is real. Evil is a personal power.
In today’s text we see a demon—actually, many demons, manifest themselves in the presence of Jesus. They had taken up residence in a human being and had caused the man great harm. Like the leper and the prostitute and the widow, this was another case of a person living on the margins of society, isolated from community, living in a personal hell.
Jesus speaks to the demons. The demons speak back to Jesus. They beg him to have mercy on them. How’s that for a power imbalance? Bottom line is Jesus restores this impossible situation to normal.
Remember Jesus’ words back in Nazareth about releasing the oppressed and setting captives free? This is that.
If you look back through the Gospels, Jesus is not doing random acts of kindness. He is on a very specific and focused mission. Every move he makes unfolds yet another manifestation of what it looks like when God rules. It looks like the reversal of all that is wrong in the world.
Evil is not an impersonal force. The Bible does not reveal evil as a satanic force, but Satan as an evil, personal presence. As a personal presence, evil can inhabit, oppress, and even possess human beings. In the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, where we say, “Deliver us from evil,” he actually says “Deliver us from the evil one.”
Here’s the good news. Satan and evil are no match for Jesus. It’s not even a fair fight. John put it this way,
“He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
We must also understand that apart from Jesus, we are no match for Satan. We will lose.
Writing some fifteen hundred years later, Martin Luther, wrote one of the greatest hymns of all time, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” The hymn paints a picture of the reality of Satan and of the infinitely greater power of Jesus. I will close today’s entry with the words of the hymn.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.
This is one of my favorite hymns. It is as true now as it ever was. It’s one to sing—either alone or in a crowd. I commend it to you, wherever you are today and no matter what you are facing, sing this song.
The mountain is in full view now. We are getting close. Tomorrow Jesus will once again employ the unlikely to accomplish the impossible. Day after he asks us the question of all questions, and then Wednesday, the Day of Ashes, we will climb to the summit.
Father God, a mighty fortress you are indeed. Thank you. Why do I run about in my anxiety so stressed and battered by the menacing legions when you are “a bulwark never failing?” Raise this fortress around me. Put this fortress of your presence within me. And show me what it could mean today to invite others inside. In Jesus name, Amen.
Do you believe that Satan is real? Do you believe evil is a personal power and presence? Why or why not? Do you tend toward under-belief or over-belief as it relates to the Evil One? What does a more true and biblical understanding look like?
For the Awakening,