Power To Subdue - Part One
November 25, 2018 | Randy Smith
Power To Subdue – Part One
Sunday, November 25, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
We’ve spent a lot a time over the years covering what the Bible teaches about authority. Authority in the home. Authority in the church. Authority in the government. Authority in the workplace. God appoints leaders who are accountable to Him. Unless they are committing actions contrary to Scripture, there is the biblical command to place ourselves under the sphere of authority where we find ourselves.
Clearly this is a biblical concept. Clearly this is necessary for any institution to have order and direction. But most importantly, this is to honor Jesus Christ because He is the head of all authority and submission to the lesser authorities He appoints is ultimately submission to Him.
Yet how do we know all authority belongs to Jesus Christ? Well, the Scripture declares it: “At the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW…and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11). Jesus Himself declared it at the close of Matthew’s Gospel: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). But what we will see over the next two weeks is that Jesus demonstrated it as well: In verses 22-39 (this week) He demonstrates authority over nature and demons. Then in verses 40-56 (next week) He demonstrates authority over sickness and death. I am calling these two sermons, “Power to Subdue.” Four points today – Introducing, Meeting, Leaving and Proclaiming.
Iintroducing (verses 26–27, 29–30)
We start with the first point, “Introducing,” in verses 26-27 and verses 29-30. This is the basically the setting of this miracle.
Let’s first back up. Verse 22-25 tell us that the disciples had a rough night. As they were sailing across the Sea of Galilee a strong wind causing large waves threatened their lives. Jesus stopped the wind. The sea becomes still. Their response? “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” (Lk. 8:25). Authority over nature.
Verse 26 then informs us the boat made it across the Sea to the “country of the Gerasenes” [Gar-a-scenes]. This is a territory opposite of Galilee to the west. It’s significant because it was not a place visited by the Jews – Gentile territory and (as we’ll see in a moment) a place where pigs were kept. Here’s our Lord again reaching out to all people, particularly the ones rejected by their community.
And who is His particular focus on this time? Verse 27, “A man from the city who was possessed with demons.”
Hit the pause button. Who or what is a demon? A demon is a supernatural being spoken of all over the Bible. They are old as they have been around since creation. There were once good as was all of God’s original creation. But there was a point in time that they rebelled. That is when they went from being called an angel to being called a demon. They parallel the angels. They are basically the same in constitution and power. The only difference is in their desire to do God’s will. The ones that obey and serve God are angels. The ones who disobey and oppose God are demons.
Demons have doctrine. Demons know their theology (we’ll see that today). Demons are ruled by the prince of demons, another fallen angel named Satan. Demons can possess people (as we will see today). Demons cannot possess believers. Demons oppress all people, especially believers. Our battle as Christians is against demonic powers. Ephesians 6 says we spiritually “wrestle” against them wearing our “spiritual armor” and using the “Sword of the Spirit,” which is the Word of God.
Some demons are presently confined. Some demons are free to cause problems. All demons, including Satan himself, are subjected to God’s authority (as we will also see today) and have already been defeated by our Lord’s work on the cross. They know their judgment is coming and their time is short.
Performing exorcisms, casting out demons, was something committed to the Apostles and their delegates (Lk. 9:1). Regarding exorcisms, there is nothing in the Old Testament, only two accounts in Acts and nothing in the Epistles. Obviously it was not a major issue in the early church. In Acts 19 some guys tried an exorcism and they were attacked, lost their clothes and ran away naked. Performing exorcisms is not for the church today. We simply lead someone to Christ and Christ expels the demonic presence.
Demonic activity is rather quiet throughout biblical history. They made their greatest presence known during the life and ministry of Christ and they will make their presence known again just before our Lord’s return. They prefer anonymity lest they be exposed (especially in our country), but as we will see today that was not an option when they were confronted with the direct presence of Christ.
Verse 27 and 29 tell us this particular man, “Had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs… For [the demons] had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.”
You a get a picture of this guy in your head? It’s one of deep sadness. The demons had taken over to such a degree that this man had lost control of all common decency. He was without clothes – a shameful act. He was without control. His fellow townspeople had given up on him. They tried to restrain him with chains, but he’d continually break them. He was not welcome in his city. And rather than living in a home, he lived in a graveyard amongst the tombs. Marks account adds, “Night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones (Mk. 5:5). Self-destruction. Self-mutilation. Wild behavior. Suicidal. Banished from the community. Treated worse than a wild animal by the demons and the people.
How bad was his condition? When Jesus asked him his name in verse 30 the demons spoke through him and said, “Legion.” That was not his name. The demons were only giving and evasive answer. Luke in verse 30 explains, “For many demons had entered him.” Mark 5:9, “My name is Legion for we are many.” A Legion in a Roman army was about 5,600 troops. So that gives you an idea as to how many demons were in this guy. Earlier in this chapter in 8:2 we read Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out. This guy had thousands. On another note, remember Jesus was being arrested in the Garden and He said He could call the Father for “more than 12 legions of angels” (Mt. 26:53)?
Meeting (verse 28)
Let’s go to the second point and look at the “Meeting” that this man had with Jesus.
In Matthew’s account of this story it is reported that there were two men possessed with demons. Matthew then only focuses on one of them. Luke gives all of his attention only to the one of them. Yet Matthew reports that when people would arrive in their area “[the demon-possessed men] were so extremely violent that no one could pass by [their] way (Matt. 8:28).
You get the picture. They occupied an area among the tombs. Yet when they saw people they would meet them and subsequently attack them. Imagine the word around town. “Last night I was walking by and all of a sudden these two naked lunatics spotted me and violently roughed me up!”
Verse 27 says when Jesus arrived on the land He was also “met by a man” (this of course being the man possessed with the demons). They though what? Another person to attack, right? Yet when they got close it didn’t take long to recognize it was Jesus. Fascinating! The disciples themselves at this point were still relatively clueless as it pertained to Jesus. Yet the demons had absolutely no trouble immediately recognizing they were in the presence of God Almighty.
Verse 28, “Seeing Jesus, he [the demons now speaking through one of the men] cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, ‘What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.’”
What can we observe from this verse? Demons controlling human actions –
Speaking with the man’s voice and making the man go down when they go down in the presence of Jesus. Immediate recognition of Jesus. Calling Jesus by name and adding “Son of the Most High God.” Fear demonstrated by falling before Christ. Acknowledgment of Jesus as a higher power who can (and one day will) “torment” them. Acknowledgment that simply by His word Christ can demonstrate His authority over the demons. No fear for Jesus when face-to-face with thousands of demons and despite their numbers, those demons fearful in the presence of Christ.
In verse 31 the demons begged Jesus not to send them “away to the abyss.” That’s confinement, punishment in hell. If I combine verse 28 with verse 31 my own paraphrase of the demonic thinking would go like this. “We know our final destiny, but we beg you not to send us there at this time. We understand the end-time judgment, but we did not expect to see you here this early. Why are you here? What’s this all about, Jesus?”
Two more notable conclusions: The demons have good theology and they respect the presence of Jesus. I often believe many so-called Christians have neither.
I recall James 2:19. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”
Leaving (verses 29, 31–33)
So from Introducing to Meeting we now go to Leaving, the third point. In other words, the demons wondered where Jesus would send them. Verse 29 says, “For [Jesus] had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.” So their time possessing this guy was done. Jesus is going to have to send them somewhere. They begged it would not be the abyss (verse 31). Even the demons hate hell. They offer an alternative plan
Verse 32, “Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.”
Key words in verse 32, “permit” and then “permission.” Jesus was in complete control. Jesus had full authority over the demons. They needed His permission to do anything.
Verse 33, “And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.”
As I worked through this passage I began to see more clearly an interesting point regarding our Lord’s authority. It’s not only that God has authority over the entire creation, period. Think through that! Take that only in an authoritative way and there is not much hope for us. As humans we have rebelled against the cosmic King and deserve the same condemnation as the demons. The only difference from that perspective between demon and humans is that at least the demons acknowledge they deserve it. All guilty people should fear the authority they have disobeyed.
But God uses His authority for the good, not for demons, but for humans. In His authority He lived the perfect life and met His own demands for perfect righteousness in Christ. Jesus Christ died for our sins and also met Hs own demands for justice. Because of His work on the cross, forgiveness is now available to rebels like us when we lay aside our futile pride and the false hope in our own goodness and run to Him for mercy and grace. And then through His resurrection, Christ demonstrated that authority over death and sin and the demons. If we are in Christ, we share that victory with Him.
This story when seen from the demonic perspective is hopeless. Everything about them we learn is destruction. What they did to this man. What they did to these pigs. While fearing torment themselves, they torment others. Power than no human can subdue. No chance for redemption. In a sense we all find ourselves in this hopeless predicament, spiritually bound and enslaved.
Yet when we understand that Jesus has an authority over them we have hope, that we have the highest power if indeed we have submitted ourselves to Jesus by faith and have Him dwelling within us. Opportunity for redemption.
We see here that evil never goes away quietly. In this life there will always be a struggle. Yet we too have good theology as we trust the promises from Scripture that the victory is already won. Evil will be eternally defeated. And those on Christ’s team will dwell securely.
>Proclaiming (verses 34–39)
Last point, Proclaiming. Verses 34-37, “When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned.”
This is a remarkable conclusion to this story! The man was “made well.” We could say he was saved mentally, physically and spiritually. He’s now fully clothed. And he’s sitting at the feet of Jesus. He is fully “made well” when he came to Christ. And what do these townspeople conclude? There were direct witnesses of the miracle. Will they too trust the one that healed the man they couldn’t? Will they too like the man embrace Jesus?
Just the opposite! Verse 35, “They became frightened.” Verse 37, “They were gripped with great fear.” And because of this they ask Jesus to leave. Why?
Perhaps it was an economic reason. They just saw their livelihood run down the banks and drowned in the Sea. Hard to have Jesus around if He’s going to be killing off the profits! Just like today, Jesus is often not good for business. Just look at all those who protest Chick-fil-A because its CEO loves Jesus.
Yet I believe it was a spiritual reason. You can’t be neutral in the presence of Jesus. If you rightly understand Him there will be (like the townspeople) great fear. It’s biblically impossible! You will either fall down and worship Him as your Lord (like the man) or you will ask Him to leave (like the others in the town). Even the Apostle Peter initially said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Lk. 5:8).
It is the folly of rejecting Christ. The people in this town felt more comfortable in the presence of this demon-possessed man than in the presence of a Man who could drive the demons away! Listen, if you really get who Jesus is you will be like the demons or townspeople who fear His righteousness and want Him to leave or like the healed man who repents and respects His righteousness and sits at the feet of their Savior.
And those who are His disciples don’t just sit as His feet. They (like this man) want to follow Him and they want to proclaim Him.
Verses 38-39, “But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”
Our victory is in Christ. May we too follow Him ad proclaim the Good News to others.