Galatians 3: 23-end, Luke 8: 26-39
“The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”
May I speak in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If we saw today’s Gospel reading acted out in a film I think it would be quite a dramatic scene with dramatic music in the background. It is at first a scene of chaos, maybe a little scary but certainly uncomfortable. Jesus steps off the boat to be greeted by a naked man possessed by demons running around shouting, screaming and talking nonsense. Jesus casts out the demons in to a herd of pigs who then throw themselves off the cliff edge. Climactic music ends the scene, with the man collapsed at the feet of Jesus!
But although yes a dramatic event when compared with some other of Jesus healing events, there is far more to be seen and to learn in this Gospel reading I think. For a start Jesus doesn’t seem at all phased by the man possessed of demons. The man’s fellow villagers are obviously petrified of him – they even try to keep him tied up – not that that works. And the demons within the man were shouting at Jesus to leave them alone. I wonder how we would react if confronted by such a person, shouting and ranting and naked? I don’t think I would be as calm as Jesus who simply asks the man his name. Jesus starts to have a conversation with him just as he would with any other person! I wonder if the man was quite stunned by this – I mean no-one ever spoke to him. And Jesus does just as the demons ask. He doesn’t cast them in to hell but in to the heard of pigs nearby. Personally I think Jesus knew what would happen when the demons entered the pigs – but he did just as they asked. In this first part of the story we clearly see Jesus’ compassion and evidence of his awesome healing power. But that isn’t the end of the story as maybe we would have seen in a film. Jesus continues to talk with the man. When the villagers arrive to see what has been going on they find the healed man sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him. Now we must bear in mind that it is usually the disciples who are sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him teach. So it isn’t hard to imagine that Jesus was not simply talking generally to this healed man but teaching too. It isn’t hard to imagine that Jesus was explaining the man’s new life to him. Giving him hope for the future, assurance of sins forgiven, and the promise of direction in his life. In healing this man and teaching him, Jesus also gave the man respect.
Self-respect and the opportunity to be respected by others. After all isn’t that what most people want – to be treated with respect? Respect shouldn’t stop with only able bodied, able minded people. Everyone deserves respect, to be treated normally, equally. Everyone deserves to be listened to, to be valued for who they are. And the conclusion of this story is that the man wanted to follow Jesus – not just because he had been healed, but as a result of the conversation they had had after his healing. But Jesus has another job for him. He gives this healed man a purpose. So many years of being despised, chained, outcast – years of not having a purpose in his life or in the lives of others. But Jesus gives him a purpose now. To go and tell everyone all that God, all that Jesus had done for him through his healing. For me that is the dramatic part of this story.
This is the climax of this story. This is the important part of this story. Go and tell how much God has done for you! How good are we at that? I’m sure we are good at helping the needy in various ways. I’m sure we are good at loving our neighbours as ourselves. I am sure we are good at keeping the commandments, at praying, at reading our Bibles. And if we aren’t good at these things at least we try. But how good are we at telling others all that God has done for us personally? What better way is there of sharing the love of God? Of sharing the good news of Jesus, than bearing witness to what he has done for us in our own lives? Please don’t start to feel uncomfortable – I’m not going to ask you all now to step forward and tell everyone here and at home what God has done for you. That might be too embarrassing for some, and quite frankly we don’t have the time this morning. But do let me know if at any time you would like a service based on that – I’m sure Rev Jane, Rev Karen and Phil would be only too pleased to hold such a service.
Maybe I can suggest what God has done for each and every one of us. Of course he has done for us individual personal things, but I am talking about everyone. Or I should say I can point you to St Paul’s letter to the Galatians that we heard read earlier, where he tells us what God has done for each and every one of us. We are all children of God. We are all one in Christ Jesus. And if we belong to Christ Jesus then we are heirs according to the promise made to Abraham, and we can delight in that. Salvation is offered to us all. So even if we don’t feel comfortable talking about what God has done for us personally, surely we shouldn’t be afraid of telling others what he has done for everyone. Why is that something we would want to keep to ourselves? We don’t have to be like the healed man who told everyone in his village. But we can tell those with whom our paths cross.
I had an amazing conversation a few years back with my window cleaner! What started as a chance remark from him as I paid him, turned in to me telling him of God’s love for him and a little about what God had done for me. I have also had a conversation in the supermarket with a member of staff and another customer. what started off as a doom and gloom “woe is me – we live, we die, the end” comment from the cashier – gave me the perfect opportunity to share with her God’s love and the promise of salvation and resurrection. I must have struck a chord with the lady behind as she joined in too. So you see, there are often opportunities in the most unexpected of places and at unexpected times, to tell what God has done for us. I pray that we don’t waste those opportunities. That we give thanks for all that God has done for us. That we share with others all that God has done for us.