Monday, June 18, 2007

Watch out Daemons. He's coming for you. Luke 8:26-39

In Luke's story about the man possessed by a "Legion" of daemons, we see what God can do to transform the most desperate situation. The man was living on the edge of society: in the tombs. He was naked and alone. Today we might call it mental illness, addiction, or some other tragic situation; regardless of what we think of the story with modern eyes the basic outline is clear. A man needed help; Jesus met him and delivered him.
The man who was possessed by daemons wasn't in any position to demand respect from Jesus. He didn't come to God saying he was worthy of help. He met God when he was desperate; literally naked and alone. It wouldn't even be right to say that this man came to God. Luke says that, the man and Jesus met when Jesus set foot on the shore.
Jesus still works this way. He searches out the broken. He ate with the sinners and the contagious. He gives his body and blood not to a worthy church but to all of us who Luther called "beggars." We come to the table looking for a scrap of God's mercy and forgiveness and grace and God offers his own body and blood to redeem us and hold us fast until we rise again with Christ in the resurrection to everlasting life.

Who is this Jesus?
In Luke 7 and 8 the question "Who is this" was asked twice of Jesus. Once when he stilled the storm and once when he forgave the woman who was a know sinner. In Luke's 8:26-29 the man and the daemons that tormented him knew enough about Jesus to know he could change the situation. The daemons knew enough to try and keep him away. Jesus wasn't deterred by the ugliness of reality. He didn't wait for the man to shave, get dressed, or make a statement of faith before he helped him. Jesus reached out to him from the very heart of God.
Meeting Jesus in this story is a glimpse of God's coming kingdom. Jesus is not vaguely interested in us. He was active in history and he is ready to be active in our lives. He entered right into the every day life of the people who lived around him. He didn't enter their ideal lives he entered their real lives as sinners in need of a merciful God. And Jesus is doing the same thing for us. Listen to him in Luke's stories and you meet him as person who brings the unexpected kingdom of God right into our lives

Can you admit when you desperately need the help of God?
The part of the story that sticks out is the desperation of the man who was possessed. He needed but wasn't necessarily looking for help. He didn't come qualified for it; he was desperate for it.
My old teacher Gerhard Forde, of blessed memory, wrote in Carl Braaten's 2 Volume Christian Dogmatics, about the moment when God could do the most for us (excuse the lack of proper sitation but my wife says its time to come home). He said that moment when God can make us holiest occurs when we admit we need God the most; not when we think we need a little help from God, or a little guidance from God.
The moment that God can do the very most with any of us is the moment we come naked and alone desperate for mercy and grace. When Jesus finds you desperate he can do the most to make you over in his image. Come to him when you think your ready and you'll go away unchanged. Jesus came not for the self-prepared. He came for a broken world in need of healing offering himself not as a model alone, but as the one who would take away the sins of the world.

3 comments:

Diane said...

Forde my teacher too. Loved him. Another teacher said, "He's so narrow you can't see him in profile." but his narrowness is essential.
All the people who are afraid and want Jesus to go away are the people who just, in your words, "want a little help" or "a little guidance".
I find it ironic that they are more afraid of the man when he's in his right mind than when he's filled with daemons.
Why "watch out. He's coming for you." is a good title.
When we really get the idea who Jesus is, we often want him to go away. Unless we are desperate.
Also the swine reveals the destructive nature of evil, of the daemons. Maybe we could pretend they "weren't so bad" until we saw that.
I'm new to this. looking forward to the conversation.

Pastor Eric said...

You wrote: "The moment that God can do the very most with any of us is the moment we come naked and alone desperate for mercy and grace. Come to Jesus desperate and he can do the most to make you over in his image." This quote makes me think of the story, "The Ragman". At the end of that story the narrator sees the Ragman/Christ figure and asks the Ragman to "dress him". He comes before the Ragman with nothing (naked) and leaves changed (dressed). A great story.

Thanks for the post.
Eric

Diane said...

great reference to ragman!