Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 February 12, 2023
“What Has the Lord Done for You?”
Last week we left Jesus on the again-calm Sea of Galilee—having just stilled the wind and the waves, to the disciples’ great amazement. Today we find Him on the eastern shore of that sea, near Gerasa. There Jesus meets, and delivers, a demoniac man of the tombs and mountains. Once again, let us hear the Word of God read and proclaimed in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Jesus, with His disciples and, presumably, other boats accompanying, arrives at land near Gerasa. Immediately a man meets Him there. This man is possessed by an unclean spirit. This unclean spirit renders the demoniac strong. None can subdue him, for he breaks every bond and fetter affixed to him—and it appears that the local folks have abandoned all hope of restraining him. The unclean spirit also renders this man solitary. He lives among the tombs and in the mountains—far from anyone else and, in particular, far from healthy interpersonal relationships. Hence, the unclean spirit renders this man a suffering man. He suffers in his soul from demonic torment, no doubt, but he also suffers in his body from self-harm. He cuts himself with stones, and he cries out—likely from internal and external pain inflicted by this unclean spirit. Here is a miserable, pitiable man—a man who, for all of that, now meets Jesus.
Jesus now speaks with the demon—or, as we shall see presently, a host of demons. He was telling them, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.” The demons respond exactly in the manner expected when the greater compels the lesser. They run to Jesus and fall down before Him. They cry out in pain and in fear, confessing Who Jesus is, but worshiping Him not. In a remark dripping with irony, the demon(s) plead that He will not torment them. Now this is rich; the demon, after tormenting this man, now beg relief from torment.
Jesus then asks, “What is your name?” The spokes-demon replies, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” A legion is a large group of Roman soldiers, usually held to number about 6,000 soldiers, but some sources place the size of a legion as high as 12,500 soldiers. Some commentators believe that the term legion should be understood figuratively to represent some indeterminate, very large number. In any case, this poor man endures the affliction of numerous, hate-filled spirits. Jesus, of course, commands them all at His pleasure. The demons, clear-eyed here, know this and beg not to be sent into the abyss (Luke 8:31), where they will suffer further, being closer to the father of lies, the chief tormentor, and where they will no more enjoy the sick pleasure of tormenting others.
The demons arrive at a collective idea, and they offer it to Jesus. They beg to be sent into a herd of about 2,000 pigs. Our text tells us that Jesus allows this, and upon His allowance the demons enter the pigs. Then the demon-possessed herd of pigs charge headlong down the slope into the sea and drown. The text does not tell us explicitly the fate of the demons, but it tells us plainly what happened to their new hosts, and this informs the next section in the narrative.
The Gerasenes, not recognizing Who stands before them, plead with Jesus to leave their region. They do this because of their fear, in seeing the demoniac healed and perceiving –either at first or second hand—that He did it. They also plead with Jesus to leave because of their loss of livestock. Even allowing for varying market conditions and practices, the owners of this destroyed herd lost well over a quarter of a million dollars—and perhaps they lost closer to half of a million dollars.1 One Who is the cause of such financial loss—yea, even ruin—must not be welcomed in their coasts. Hence, Jesus takes the Gerasenes at their word and departs—to their souls’ impoverishment to be sure.
Yet Jesus does not leave Himself without witness in the region. The former demoniac pleads to follow Jesus, for, understandably, he wants to be with his Deliverer. Yet Jesus forbids, and assigns Him another task. He will proclaim Jesus to his friends in his home region. He will tell how much the Lord did for him, and he will tell of the Lord’s mercy extended to him. The former demoniac, for his part, complies. He preaches in the Decapolis how much Jesus did for him, and everyone marveled.2 Granted, the text does not say that all, or even some, converted from unbelief to faith in Christ, but hopefully some who marveled came all the way to saving faith by the secret work of the Holy Spirit. This ministry concluded, the company sailed back across the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus then resurrected a twelve-year-old girl (5:21-24a, 35-43) and healed a woman with a twelve-year issue of blood (5:24b-34).
Before we ask the question, “What has the Lord done for you?” let’s ask a prior question, namely, “What has happened to you?” Think of some of the adverse events and circumstances you’ve borne in your days. Granted, some of these occurred in consequence of your sin (as is true in my life as well), but think also of other reasons for these adversities. Some came because others sinned against you, others came as the result of life lived in a fallen world, and still others come that God’s glory and our best may be manifest in a special way—even if we never understand why, as appears to be the case with Job.
Now, with your adversities firmly in view, ask, “What has the Lord done for you?” If you be a believer in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord, then He has removed the guilt of your sin (and mine) and transferred it to Jesus, Who, for the joy set before Him, atoned for it at dark Calvary. The Lord also, in many cases, has mitigated the consequences of our sin—and this to our souls’ great delight. Just as the Lord transferred our guilt to Jesus, so also He transferred (via imputation) His righteousness unto us—with all the gifts appertaining thereunto. These gifts include eternal life (which we taste in part now, and to the full later), a life which never ends. They also include the abundant life of which Jesus speaks in John 10:10, a life that includes, among other things: the indwelling Holy Spirit and His ministries, spiritual gifts whereby we know the Lord better and serve Him better, public worship, and fellowship with fellow believers and their households. In view of all of these, and so much more, go to your friends, therefore, and declare unto them what the Lord has done for you, and how He has mercy upon you.
1The loss to the owners of these pigs is about $425,600 in today’s money, based on a lean hog price of $0.76/lb. (https://markets.businessinsider.com/commodities/lean-hog-price, accessed February 10, 2023) and an average market-ready weight of 280 lbs (Chuck Kowalski, “Lean Hogs Futures and Commodities,” https://www.thebalancemoney.com/lean-hogs-profile-809279, accessed February 10, 2023).
2The Decapolis was a set of nine cities roughly east and southeast of the Sea of Galilee, with a tenth city lying just west of the Jordan River. These cities were founded in the period 323-63 B. C.