God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; and he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38
Pour out upon us, O God,
the power and wisdom of your Spirit,
so that we, who have been baptised into Christ
and made your children through faith,
may know your Son’s power to heal,
and, being made one in him,
may overcome all barriers that divide us;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
- 1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a
- Psalm 42 & 43
- Galatians 3:10-14, 23-29
- Luke 8:26-39
- 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
- Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
- Galatians 5:1, 13-25
- Luke 9:51-62
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 2 – Luke 8:26-39
As [Jesus] stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs … Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.
Luke seems to understate the eeriness of this scene. A madman – naked, given to violent seizures, left to stalking cemeteries, deprived of family, friends and identity – shouts at Jesus as he is going by. When Jesus meets the man, the demons themselves speak. Once Jesus had subjugated them, they beg to enter into a nearby herd of pigs, which then rush down the hillside into the lake where they drown.
This story reflects a common theme of Luke’s Gospel: Jesus’ compassion trumps religious practice and social convention. The psychotic man, considered “unclean” and ritually impure to religious Jew, is condemned to live among the tombs. In Luke’s account (unlike Matthew and Mark’s version of the story), Jesus commands the spirits to leave him before the man can ask Jesus for healing.
In demanding to know the name of the demons, Jesus demonstrates his authority over them. In ancient thought, to know a name was to exercise control, and the demons freely surrender to Jesus’ authority, realising they must be obedient to him. The name Legion is the technical term for a division of the Roman military, usually consisting of about five thousand troops; thus, the name suggests a horde of demons possessing the man. For Jesus’ Jewish hearers, pigs epitomised both paganism and their hated Roman occupiers. Rather than return to the “abyss” (the realm of Satan), the demons ask that they be allowed to enter the pigs on the nearby hillside; Jesus agrees, but then plummets the herd into the lake, visible proof the demons have left the man once and for all.
The man, now healed, is sent by Jesus to proclaim the goodness of God throughout the town, becoming one of the first Gentile missionaries. But those who witness this exorcism are terrified at the power of this Jesus and ask him to leave.
We all have our demons distracting us from the things of God; we are all “possessed” by fear, despair, and cynicism. Yet we hesitate to be rid of them – we have become secure and comfortable in our own little worlds, with our demons protecting them. Christ comes to exercise our demons that we may be made new and whole in the limitless compassion of God.
Jesus and the Gospel he preaches terrifies us. While we readily embrace the peace and comfort of Jesus’ words, we shy away from the demands of the Gospel: selflessness, humility, detachment from the material. Authentic faith demands we be willing to follow not only the good and gentle Jesus but the suffering and crucified Jesus, as well.
Jesus’ authority is not an “authority” constructed of legend and celebrity. His authority over good and evil is centred in the selfless, limitless, and unconditional love of God and the spirit of humility that seeks to put the power of one’s “authority” at the service of others.
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You can read the Pew Sheet herePentecost-2-C