June 22/23, 2019
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
There is a spiritual war around the world today, not less nor less fierce than it was in Jesus’ time. Don’t you believe there are still demon possessions nowadays? Just last week, the defense attorney for Brendt Cristensen admitted to the jury, that his client “is responsible for the death of Yingying Zhang”, after mounting evidence presented at the trial. He is accused of abducting and murdering the visiting scholar from China at the University of Illinois. The cold blooded and horrific nature of the suspect was shocking and demonic. After the murder, he calmly appeared at the scene of a Campus Prayer Vigil for Yingying with his girlfriend. He admitted to his girlfriend that he raped, killed, and beheaded YingYiing. He also boasted that he was in the same league as “Ted Bundy, a notorious serial killer in the 1970s.” He has a dark soul. He likes to read books about killing and murdering, and to visit websites on the subject of kidnapping and abuse. He sought after what is called an “open relationship” while he was married. After he had a broken relationship with his wife, there was a sharp decline in his academics, followed by a lot of alcohol and drug abuse, and he had communication problems with his parents. You may disagree with me on whether or not Brendt Cristensen is demon-possessed. People have different opinions on the modern definition of demon- possession. But you would agree that when he committed the crime, the devil possessed his heart and worked through his sinful nature. He is responsible for the crime, but he was also possessed by the devil. By this definition, you can see there is a lot of demon possession in this world. When terrorists blew up themselves and others, when genocides happened, and when mass shootings shattered everyday lives, don’t you think those perpetrators were possessed by the devil, even though they are responsible for the crimes?
Of course, most of the time nowadays, the devil works in quite a different way than he did in ancient time. His work is much more hidden and deceptive than it was before. Like Brendt Cristensen, the devil appears calmly and intelligently. Do you know? Brendt is a very talented PhD student in physics, and in a lot ways very “holy” in appearance. He was rated as an “excellent teaching assistant” three times in a row. As in today’s old testament reading of Isaiah, the Bible says, those people who were adulterous and unclean could appear very holy, set up their own holiness and look down on others. The Bible says, they “sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; eat pig’s flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels (meaning they do sinful and unclean things); but say to others, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.’” Nowadays, this kind of adulterous and unclean life style but with “holier than thou” attitude is more and more prevalent than it was before.
In today’s Gospel reading, before being healed by Jesus, this man from Gerasenes had been tortured by a “legion” of demons. He wore no clothes, and he didn’t live in a house but among the tombs. For many times the unclean spirit 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 desert. He was a representative of the unclean and adulterous people of that Gentile region. There were two responses to the mighty work of Jesus driving out demons, and they are quite telling. Firstly, it may have shocked you that all the people of the surrounding country asked Jesus to depart from them. What did they see? What did they say among themselves? The herdsmen saw that the demons who used to possess this man had come out of him and entered the pigs, and that the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. So, they told the story in the city and in the country in a very negative way, because they said it out of fear for they fled. When people went out to see what had happened, they saw the man whom they knew was demon possessed before, now sitting peacefully at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, meaning he was completely healed. But instead of rejoicing, they began to fear. Why? I think we can quite reasonably fill the blank of what they were telling each other and what they were afraid of. The herdsmen must have been grieved by the loss of their pigs. They feared Jesus as if He was the devil. So, they told the story negatively. Those people who saw and learned how this man got healed, they thought similarly. They feared that if they would allow Jesus to stay, they could lose not just pigs but maybe the whole economy because there were so many demons in the country. This man was just too typical of them. So, they shunned Jesus as if they were the holy innocent persons shunning a thief or sorcerer of some sort. But in actuality, they shunned the truth and rejected the salvation of Jesus.
Rejection of Jesus and His work is now everywhere too. The extreme way of rejecting Jesus is persecution against Christianity. The persecution around the world takes on different forms. Massacre of Christians like attacks in Nigeria is just one way the devil works. Bias against and suppression of the truth in the entertainment industry, in media, in school, and in scientific fields is not only becoming prevalent, but also “sanctified” in some way by political correctness. They appear “holier than thou” and set up their own holiness. However, beneath the surface is the depressed and perverted souls wandering in the darkness of the internet. Statistics show that there are more and more depression and suicide cases in America as well as in China because of social media and some demonic video games. Sexual sins are becoming more perverted and high-tech. Why? Because the devil is behind all of these. He is the ruler of this world, opposing the truth, deceiving and killing. That’s his nature. Jesus says in John 8:44, “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.”
Contrasting to the people of Gerasenes, the other response from the man from whom the demons had gone is totally different. He begged Jesus that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. This is the behavior of a saved man. He wants to be with Jesus and to hear His Word. At the same time, he wants everyone to know how much God has done for him through Jesus. This miracle of Jesus is after the parable of the Sower and other parables about the Word of God, followed by the miracle of Jesus calming of a storm. Both miracles demonstrate the power of Jesus’ Word, which is exactly the Word of God. They also show us that Jesus is the Lord God, Who rules over His creation even now and Who has come to defeat the devil and his work. God is present in Jesus to drive out the devil and to bring salvation even to the unclean Gentiles, like us. When we are baptized, the devil is driven out of us, and God brings us from the reign of Satan to the reign of Christ. The Word of Jesus created faith in this demonic man; he is a disciple now. He used to be possessed by unclean spirits, living outside Israel, controlled by the devil, doomed to death in his sins and transgressions. But now, he has the Holy Spirit, becoming a child of God, freed from the devil, and destined to life through the forgiveness of sins. He is the case in the parable of the Sower that the seed, which is the Word of God, fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. Contrasting to this man, the people of Gerasenes rejected Jesus and His work, telling a different story of Jesus, fearing their earthly interests might be ruined. That’s the difference.
Realizing it or not, you are in a spiritual war. Look at yourself and look around you and around the world and check it against the Bible. What do you see and what do you say about what have happened, especially about what Jesus has done for you and for the whole world? Jesus has done mighty work on the cross to forgive you and to give you eternal life, to bring you out of darkness of the devil into marvelous light of the Gospel. So, we want to be with Jesus and proclaim everywhere around us what He has done for us all.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!