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Monday, June 24, 2013

Gone to Hell

This is a rework of my Sunday sermon on Luke 8:26-39; the demonic man healed by Jesus
One day Jesus got in a boat, but quickly fell asleep. As He slept the lake had a storm. The connection to the primal stormy waters of Genesis are intended to be seen. As the apostles cry out and Jesus rebukes (epitimao is often used of Jesus' exorcisms) the storm it is an act of salvation/creation. The connection of bodies of water and chaos continue throughout the Bible, both ancient and new covenant. In addition, stormy waters were sometimes used as an image of the Gentiles (those chaotic peoples worshipping their pagan gods...)

Later, when Jesus landed on the shore, He encounters another form of chaos. This raging storm is inside the man possessed by demons.
Notice we are told the man is naked, just like Adam was in the Garden. This is another typology reminding us that Salvation is (new) Creation. The naked man is screaming because Jesus is healing.

Evil and Sin are fruits of chaos/disorder. The word “license” means freedom, liberty or permission to do something. It also means “excessive liberty or impropriety, a disregard for standards or irresponsible freedom.”  The thin line dividing the angelic and demonic is based on the proper and improper use of freedom. License is good, license is bad. It all depends upon what you mean by license.

Our world is spiritual and material. Somehow they interact. This is especially true of human being. [It is hard to explain the spiritual and one cannot see the spiritual. Deep philosophical arguments about such things convince me that the spiritual does exist.] Evil can be spiritual and material (hence my total lack of awe when someone tells me they are "spiritual"). Traditionally, we identify three modes of evil and resistnace to God. We call this the flesh, the world and the devil.

·        The Flesh: We are all a mix of Jekyll and Hyde, holy and profane, good and evil. We do not always know ourselves or our motivations. We tend to put our best face forward, but when we are tired, hungry, cranky, stressed, or at home, we let the other side out. The ugly side.
·        The World: Those powers which positively and negatively influences us, sometimes very subtly. We don’t see how we are shaped and formed. Peer pressure and the worlds values distort and control us. They lead us from God regularly to do other things for other reasons.
·        The devil is usually subtle. Satan utilizes the evil already present in the flesh and the world. It would be nice if he appeared to us, all red and sulfur-stenched, and we saw and heard him in theatrically obvious evil. Unfortunately, it is seductive.  

Jesus says that freedom is submission to the Father. We must love and obey God. But a distorted self love, fueled by the flesh, the world and the devil, lead to chaos and confusion. Freedom degenerates into license, license becomes addiction, chaos re-emerges.

Satan’s promise is that he will give you the freedom to do whatever you want. And he does. Here is a case where the Prince of Lies tells the truth. The problem is it is not the whole truth. As we do whatever we want we end up a slave to whatever we want. We are imprisoned to our appetites and they destroy us. Just think of a normal day and how often you have an urge or desire to do something which is not good for anyone.

Let me illustrate. A good dog is a dog which acts more like a man than a dog. It is trained (discipleship) and has a master. A dog which does what it wants is called wild. It is not fit to live with us. I have a story about such a dog.

When my grandpa got back from the war he had operated a stable. They had two German Shepherds and several employees. Then they got another German Shepherd. The new dog, a border patrol dog in Germany, was much larger and meaner. Everyone was terrified. So Grandpa took the dog into a shed and closed the door. He emerged thirty minutes later with the dog was walking behind him.

Grandpa told my dad. “I decided that we had to clarify who was in charge. The dog attacked me and I punched him in the nose. He kept jumping and I punching. Over and over. Finally the dog decided it was me in charge.” From that day forward the dog was at his side and at his service.

Exorcism is like that. There is a wildness let loose in our world. It is destructive to man and beast. It is spiritual but it affects the mental, the physical and the social. I cannot explain exactly how. But I don’t know how cars and computers work either….

I do know it is manifest in diseases of body and illness of mind. It is seen in relationships gone bad and conflicts between people or nations. Alcohol and drugs, lying and cheating, violence and cruelty are all fruits of the Evil One. No place is completely free of its influence (even though there are other influences at work). And it always wears the cloak of “freedom/license.”

Everyone of us has been a victim of Satan’s tyranny.
Sadly, we have also been his tool.

The demon says its name is legion. The ancient Jew knew the connection of that word to the Roman legions. The demonic is also present in the armed occupiers. At one level the sotry of the pigs is an image of the Roman legions being hurling into the sea (much like the Egyptians in the song of Moses). "Horse and rider he hurled into the sea" goes the refrane. Roman occupation is the figurative "new" slavery to "Egypt."

To face evil we need the kind of courage that my grandfather showed that day some sixty plus years ago. We need to understand that the demonic may have sharp teeth and a terrifying bark, but we have a power working in us which is greater and more powerful. Yes, it is a dangerous business, to face down that snarling beast, but really there is no choice. We cannot hand things over to the forces of darkness because we would prefer someone else do the dirty work.

Jesus gave the church the power of the Gospel message. We are the Spirit-filled, Word of God drenched missionaries. We also have the sacraments: Reconciliation and Healing are particularly potent in spiritual warfare. While much of Christendom refuses to utilize these gifts, they lay in wait, like a sharpened sword. Once the church decides to take seriously the act of self examination and robust confession and Jesus shaped penance we will see renewal. Once we open to the forgiveness and healing love of God, publicy and openly, the grace of God will expell darkness with wonderful light.

Chaos and the demonic threaten to engulf us: individually and corporately. We are worn done by a hundred temptations to unfaithfulness to God and one another. And when confronted with satan’s handiwork we prefer to ask “why?”

Jesus does not ask, “Why did this happen?” Jesus does not give a lecture on evil and the goodness of God. No, Jesus walks up to Satan and punches him square in the nose. He does it, over and over, until the dark prince gets the point and jumps into pigs, which jump into the lake, returning to the waters of chaos where the whole mess started long ago.

Believe this:
You and I belong to Jesus. He lives in us.
Jesus is our salvation. He is freeing us from the darkness of licentiousness each day.

But understand this
Jesus empowers us to do the same for others. Luke spells that out in the previous chapter. We are to give to others in Jesus name what we have received.

So next time you find yourself complaining that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and wondering why God isn’t doing something about it remember this.

God is doing something.
He sent Jesus.
And Jesus sent you.
And that explains everything.
will be "off the grid" much of the next three weeks with other activities. appreciate your readership. will be glad to address topics of interest when I return; e-mail at if there are particular issues, preferably of Biblical or spiritual nature. God bless!


  1. Say, I wish your last post before you announce your three week sabbatical was not titled "Gone to Hell."

    Be well and may God keep you.

  2. Hahaha to OlDave's comment!