Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sermon: Luke 8: 22-39 Who is this?

Have you ever had a question that has gone round & round in your head? Perhaps you were talking about somebody you knew from away back, and you can’t remember their name. The question bugs you. You almost can’t settle until you get the answer. And sometimes, there are questions that you wonder about the answer for ages, and then one day, quite unexpectedly, they’re answered for you.

This morning in our reading, we have a question being asked. It’s the biggest, most important question that you could ever consider. Your whole future - not just in this world, but for all eternity, rests upon the answer to this question. We find it on the lips of the disciples, as they catch their breath in amazement and wonder and ask: ‘Who then is this?’ The question is: Who is Jesus?

Last week we thought about how Luke has carefully put together his gospel. We saw that he had grouped together bits of information to show what it’s like to be the good soil where God’s word is sown. This morning, we see that the question raised by the disciples on the Sea of Galilee is answered almost straight away as they arrive on the other side. But that’s to get ahead of ourselves. [You see, sometimes, you might have looked at one or other of the stories separately. That might be how you read the Bible - so many verses, or a little bit of the chapter. But it can be useful to see the bigger picture, and find the connections over longer passages. That’s how we find the answer quicker than we might have imagined.]

So who is Jesus? Let’s look at why the disciples were asking the question in the first place. Jesus and his disciples are in a boat, on Galilee. It was Jesus’ idea to go for the boat trip. And as they go across the lake, Jesus falls asleep. It’s not surprising. Not long after I passed my driving test, I would take my mum and dad and granny out for a drive on a Sunday afternoon. At least one of them would have fallen asleep fairly quickly. You wondered why I was bothering when they could sleep at home!

Jesus is asleep, when suddenly a gale begins. The water fills the boat, the situation looks bad. Remember that at least four of these guys are fishermen. And they’re terrified. They wake Jesus and shout over the wind and the splashing of the waves: ‘Master, master, we are perishing!’

So what does Jesus do? He ‘rebuked the wind and the raging waves.’ He rebukes the wind and the waves as you might tell a child to be quiet. Now, you or I could certainly say the same the next time a big wind blows along, you could say it until you were blue in the face. I don’t think you’d be able to make much difference.

Or what about rebuking the waves? When we were wee, we had the Matey bubble bath. We worked out that if you swished the water around the tub, you could make even more bubbles. It was great fun, until the water started splashing over the side of the bath. But we couldn’t stop the water. We couldn’t say to it, no, don’t go over the edge there, you’ll get us in trouble!

But when Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves, look what happened. ‘they ceased, and there was a calm.’ He even rebukes the disciples and asks: ‘Where is your faith?’ It’s no wonder they start asking one another: ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’ Given the creation obeys Jesus, who is he?

Just in case they were stuck for the answer, the very next thing that happens sorts it out. In the country of the Gerasenes is a demon-possessed man. He’s well known in the area - little children have been warned about him; They’ve seen him, running around naked, living among the tombs, sometimes bound with chains; kept under guard.

He knows who Jesus is, because just like the wind and the waves, the demons inside him know the voice of the Lord. He has commanded the unclean spirit to leave him. Now see how the make replies? ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?’

There is no doubt who Jesus is. He is the Son of the Most High God, and therefore has power over creation, including the spiritual realm of angels and demons. It seems that many demons were afflicting the man, but they didn’t want to be sent to the abyss. Instead, Jesus allows them to enter the pigs on the hillside, and they suddenly dash down into the lake and drown.

It’s an unbelievable scene. The pigs rush like lemmings into the water and perish. Those who were looking after the animals run into the city to tell about what has happened. Everyone comes out to look, and they see a remarkable sight. This man of terror, is no longer naked, but clothed; no longer running around the countryside, but sitting at Jesus’ feet; no longer possessed, but in his right mind.

The people of the city are afraid. In fact, they were seized with great fear (37). They knew the man was strong and scary. But now someone greater than him is here. The one who can command even the demons and they flee. And they don’t like it. They actually ask Jesus to leave their area. They don’t want him around.

So Jesus gets back into the boat. He’s about to leave when the men he has healed wants to go with him. After all, Jesus has saved him. He wants to be with Jesus. But Jesus says no. Instead, he gives him a job to do. Look at verse 39. ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’

The people might have told Jesus to get lost, but he leaves his witness behind. As the man returns to the city, he’ll be able to talk about what God has done for him. He’ll be a very visible reminder of the day of the kamikaze pigs; and of how God turned his life around, from demon possession to salvation.

But did you notice as Shirley read that he does it slightly different? Jesus had said: ‘declare how much GOD has done for you.’ Luke tells us: ‘So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.’ Was he not listening very well to his instructions? Did he mess up his job?

Not at all. This man knows that Jesus is God. He is the Son of the Most High God, and so to tell what God has done is to tell what Jesus has done. The disciples ask: Who is this? The demon-possessed man tells us: This is the Son of God, the Lord of all.

Do you know that today? Is this how you see Jesus? Because if it is, it changes everything. Jesus isn’t just someone we hear about or whose name is on our tongue. Instead, he is the Lord of all, the one who gave himself so that we might be freed and saved. He calls us to his table to remember his sacrifice, but then to go, to return to our homes and families and work to share what Jesus has done for you. That’s all there is to sharing your faith - to tell someone about what Jesus has done for you. Maybe this week, you’ll find the opportunity to tell someone what Jesus has done for you - how would you answer? Tell them that Jesus died for you, to take away your sins, and to give you the sure hope of eternal life with him. And ask them, Who is Jesus?

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 2nd March 2014.

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