The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Luke 8: 26 “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 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. 28 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.’ 29 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. 30 And Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. 32 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. 33 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. 34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. 35 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. 36 Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. 37 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. 38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, 39 ‘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.” (NASB)
Today begins the Season of Pentecost, formerly called Trinity Season and Ordinary Time. Today the assigned Bible readings shift from Christ’s incarnation, a life of perfect love and obedience to God the Father, His suffering and atoning death, resurrection, ascension, commissioning of the New Testament Church, and sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day to the life of the Christian. From now until the end of November the readings will direct our attention to what it means to be a Christian, a forgiven, redeemed, and adopted child of God the Father and brother or sister of Jesus Christ.
The first Gospel lesson selected to start this thematic shift is the Gospel of St. Luke starting at 8:26f. And what is the assigned lesson about? What is the first thing we ought to know as Christians? It is this. Demons and satan are real. They are not mythological creatures believed to be real by naive and foolish people. They are not part of a psychological phenomena. They are real, but of a different substance than flesh and blood human beings. They can also be a real threats and afflictions to believers and unbeliever alike. Yet, even they must yield to the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The lesson began; 26 “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons.”
Thus we begin the season of Christian living with the mysterious topic of demon possession. The Bible is not an encyclopedia. It is not a dictionary. It is not a reference book. It isn’t even a book of principles for good and successful living. It’s doesn’t set before us in reference book type fashion an extensive treatment of the truths of temporal and spiritual reality. The Bible is a book given by God that teaches us and tells us what God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have done for us and for our salvation in and throughout history. The Bible tells us some things, while leaving a great many things for us to learn in the life of the world to come. As God’s work in the world was folding, some things were revealed to us through the prophets, apostles, and ultimately through Jesus Christ and some things remain hidden. For example, Jesus said to His disciples, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” (Acts 1:7)
But sinful human curiosity wants to know more than what God has seen fit to reveal. When sinful human curiosity doesn’t get what it wants imagination often fills in the blanks with foolish and dangerous ideas. There are two topics in particular where Christians, often well meaning Christians indulge foolish ideas. The first is area of eschatology, the doctrine of the last things– the second coming of Christ. The other is angels and demons and the unseen world of spiritual creatures, especially in regard with their involvement with the people of this world.
So what does the Bible teaching about angels and demons? Let’s start with what Jesus said about the matter. In an exchange between Jesus and some Jewish leaders, Jesus said, “[the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) When Jesus talked about judging the living and the dead on the Last Day, He said, “Then [the Son of Man] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Matthew 25:41) In 1 Peter 5:8 Peter warned Christians saying, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, “I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”
So demons and the devil himself exist. Jesus says so. Many including pastors, Lutheran pastors, that means a very many on the roster of the LCMS tend to “poopoo” the belief in, presence of, or existence of these unseen creatures. They pay lip service to the existence of these beings and believe that exist, but they believe they usually exist in foreign third world primitive cultures. Given my choice between the opinions and ideas of Christian “materialists” and Jesus, I’ll Jesus’s word.
As for the origin of evil angels, we have to do back to creation. As you know, God looked over His creation at the end of Genesis 1 and “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)
There is no Bible story that tells us how demons came to be. What it does tell us is that on the sixth day of the creation of heaven and earth, everything was good. There was nothing that was corrupt or evil, not in heaven and not on earth. That would include God’s created angels. It is believed that like man below, some angels fell and became evil sometime after the sixth day. The Bible calls these evil angels demons and we find them and their leader the devil also called satan mentioned in various places in the Old and New Testament.
In spite of their rebellion, power, and hatred of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God is still God and they are still under His dominion. They have no choice but to obey His Word, to obey Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel lesson we read that chains could not hold the man who was demon possessed, that is the demons were strong enough to cause the man to break his chains. The text also uses the plural form “demons” to indicate that this man had more than one demon to contend with. When Jesus asked the creature for a name, the creature replied ‘Legion.’ St. Luke explained “for many demons had entered him.” In the language of the day, a legion was a military unit of four to six thousand Roman soldiers. Yet, Jesus speaks and they all must obey. In fact as they look for an escape, they have to ask Jesus for permission. 32 “The demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission. 33 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.”
In Luther’s book “The Bondage of the Will,” he addressed the will of the devil and the will of God. He said that the human will stands between the two like a beast of burden. If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills, as the Psalm wrote, “I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.” (Ps. 73:22-33). If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it [the human will] choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it. The human being is always possessed by a spirit. The question is whether a person is ridden by God or by the devil.
In the introduction to the rite of Holy Baptism we say of the one about to be baptized that he/she has been “conceived and born in sin and would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.” (LSB 268) Later in that rite, we ask the baptized to renounce the devil and all his works, indicating that the baptized is leaving the service of the devil and being brought into the service of Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3, 27 “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. . . . 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
In water and the Word in Holy Baptism, Jesus became your liberator. He did this by being judged for our sins. By dying He over threw the power of sin, death, and the devil. The devil is not God. He is not all powerful. He is not omnipresent. 1 John 4:4 teaches, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” The devil will be finished off one day. John 12:31-32 Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
In the Gospel lesson the formerly demon-possessed man wanted to follow Christ. He had been freed. He had been given a new life. He wanted to be a disciple. He was “begging Him [Jesus] that he might accompany Him.” But Jesus “sent him away, saying, 39 ‘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.”
Every Christian ought to be overjoyed at the gift of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. It should be something we want to tell to others. Yet, not everyone is called into the full time service of the church. Every Christian is sent into the world to serve God and neighbor in our respective vocations. It is through our respective vocations that God puts us in contact with family members, people at work, friends, fellow citizens, and strangers so that we can serve them. When opportunities arise to speak of “the great things God has done for us,” we are to make the most of those opportunities and speak. Colossians 4:5 “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
In Word of God, Holy Baptism, and the giving of the gift of faith God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit took you from the devil and the world and made you a citizen of heaven, a son and daughter, an heir of the kingdom of heaven.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen