Third Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 8:26-39
Third Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 7–Sunday Between June 19 and June 25 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy

26Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he 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. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” – 29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times 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 wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. 32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then 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. 34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39″Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

DIAGNOSIS: Haunted by demons

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Possessed
The encounter between Jesus and the Gerasene demoniac takes place in a lonely place–in a country on the other side of Galilee, on the outskirts of town, near the tombs. Cultures then and today separate those possessed with all sorts of illnesses, keeping them out of house and home and at a distance. Nevertheless, the nature of possession–to rebel against the presence of the divine–runs deep, even within the community itself (though their possession is not as physically apparent as that of the alienated, unclothed demoniac). Even they can not stand to have Jesus too close. Perhaps in part it is because he is perceived as bad for business; but more importantly, it is because Jesus interferes with, disturbs, their private little community. But it is their privateness, their keeping to themselves and keeping others (like Jesus) at a distance, that is the surest sign of their sickness, their being possessed by the “legion” of their own status, their own business, their own life as it is.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Seized
The heart of the possessed is stricken with fear, even torment. So wrapped up in their isolation, the possessed are seized not only by the evil of looking out for themselves first, but cannot cope with having their life invaded by anything out of the ordinary. The seized heart is, therefore, a locked heart, unwilling and unable to let others in, hostile to God and to others. And the evil is so deeply within the possessed, within us, that it cannot be separated. We may have learned to clothe it better; but it’s seizure is complete.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Abyss-mal
The abysmal nature of the possessed is that they are consigned to their evil. Because the evil cannot be separated from their being, the whole person is ready for the garbage heap–for the abyss, the pit of death. It is not considered, even by the evil spirits, a pleasant thought (or more accurately, locus). But the ultimate truth is that being consigned to the abyss is not the free choice of evil–it is God’s exercise of control over the evil situation. The evil will be “drowned.” That is the judgment on us, who are seized and possessed so deeply by that evil.

PROGNOSIS: Cheered by Christ

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Re-possessed
While drowning may not be thought of as all that helpful, there is one scenario of such drowning that is–our drowning and rising again with Christ in our baptisms. His divine presence in our midst (us, with the Gerasene demoniac) is a sure sign of his willingness to become contaminated with our evil, and not to keep himself at any safe distance from it. Christ has so contaminated himself with the depth of our evil that he put it to death once and for all on the cross. His authority as God’s representative empowers him to command the evil out of the control in our being, in order to place us under the free reign of his presence, as his priceless possessions. Like the calming of storms and seas in the preceding narrative to this account (8:22-25), Jesus calms those troubled with the hostilities of evil, within and without, by having them reclaimed.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Healed
Those who were formerly possessed by evil are given the assurance by Jesus that what has taken place in their being reclaimed by Him leads to their having a share in the new kind of righteousness. The demoniac is said to have been found now “clothed and in his right mind.” Clothed, indeed, with the cloak of Christ’s righteousness! And in his right mind, having the faith that evil cannot win the day over his being. Nor is there now any fear of being in the presence of the divine, sitting at the feet of Jesus (under the healing sign of his presence on the cross).

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Dismissed and declaring
The one who is healed begs to go with Jesus (v. 38). Nonetheless, he dismisses the healed ones to go back into their homes and cities, there to declare “how much God has done for you” (v. 39). Unlike the isolation of the possessed, those who are re-possessed in Christ are empowered to exercise Christ’s authority over the forces of evil–not necessarily in obvious deeds of power, but in the act of declaring the Word that is within us, bringing through that Word the comfort for troubled (possessed) consciences.


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