Text: Luke 8:26-39

Sunday June 19, 2022 – The Holy Trinity

Trinity – Creston/Mt. Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Our text for this Second Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel Lesson from Luke Chapter 8 that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind us that Satan was disarmed at the cross and will one day be destroyed forever. Connected to you, we are delivered and redeemed and ultimately on our way to heaven! Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

In the book Hell from the Heavens, John Wukovits describes the epic story of the largest single-ship kamikaze attack of World War II. The date was April 16, 1945. The battle was Okinawa.

The target was the USS Laffey, a battle-hardened destroyer, a ship primarily assigned to protect other ships from submarines. The Laffey had been involved in three prior assaults in the Pacific. The ship had seen combat, but nothing prepared the crew for this eighty-minute ordeal in which they were targeted repeatedly by Japanese suicide aircraft.

By the time the smoke settled, they’d been hit by no fewer than twenty-two kamikazes. And yet, while they sustained significant damage, they were not destroyed. And it’s this story that sets us up for another epic battle, one that Jesus enters into in Lk 8:26–29.

The scene is moments after Jesus has calmed the wild waves of the Sea of Galilee. And now, he enters “uncharted territory”—the Gerasenes. Sounds almost ominous, doesn’t it? Pagan property. A dismal place where the demons roamed.

And so, we read, “When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons” (v 27a). This guy was in rough shape. He was a “streaker” who hung out with skeletons; he didn’t wear clothes and he lived in the tombs (v 27b). People had attempted to keep him under lock and key, but he repeatedly broke free. Crazy man.

And as Jesus and the disciples haul the boat up on shore, Jesus comes face-to-face with this deranged demoniac. Scary situation. His name? Legion. Luke explains that this is because many demons had gone into him. A legion was a unit of Roman soldiers numbering around six thousand. Can you imagine the damage that thousands of demons were inflicting on this poor man?

But while Jesus is outnumbered, he is not outmatched. Pay attention to the verbiage of the story and you’ll find out who is in control of the battle. It’s Jesus. The demons are begging Jesus not to obliterate them completely by sending them into the abyss—that eternal destination of the damned. You don’t beg if you’re in control; you beg if you’re being controlled.

Like a prisoner of war who begs his captors for leniency or a criminal who begs the judge to reduce his sentence, they beg Jesus to go easy on them, to send them into a herd of swine—which Jesus obliges. And what happens? Luke records: “The herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned” (v 33). They were sunk. What the kamikazes were unable to do to the USS Laffey, the demons did to the pigs. They went down and met their watery grave.

But the story isn’t over. Go back to the poor demoniac. Where is he? He was freed. He is “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” It’s the posture of a disciple. In Jewish culture, to sit at someone’s feet was to become a disciple of the rabbi. This man is ready to stick with Jesus. In fact, he “begged that he might be with him.”

There’s that language again, recognizing that Jesus is in control. What does Jesus say? “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.” In other words, share your story. The man wants to be a student, but Jesus calls him to be a storyteller. “Go and tell those who saw your previous way of life how much I’ve done for you. Tell them the story of what you went through. Tell them of the One who delivered you from the destroyer.”

This story Luke narrates is epic—similar to the story that John Wukovits recounts from the USS Laffey. It’s a story of warfare. The Bible speaks of our struggle “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

Here’s how it breaks down: The devil is a destroyer. Jn 10:10 says that he’s come to “kill and destroy.” Rev 9:11 calls him the “angel of the bottomless pit”—the abyss—and “Apollyon,” which translates as “the destroyer.” Make no mistake, Satan and his minions have one goal and one goal only: to destroy.

J. I. Packer once said: “Satan has no constructive purpose of his own; his tactics are simply to thwart God and destroy men” Think of what they destroyed in this man. They destroyed his dignity—naked and living amongst the dead. They destroyed his relationships—ostracized from his community, living alone. And when cast out into the herd of pigs, what did they do? They destroyed them.

And to this day, we see Satan’s destructive forces at play in the lives of people, in our own lives. Destroying marriages, destroying relationships, destroying livelihoods, destroying the lives of the unborn, destroying churches, destroying the mental health of individuals. It’s one assault after another.

Verse 29 says that “for many a time it [the evil spirit] had seized him.” Many a time. One after another, to the point of exhaustion, when we’re ready to admit defeat. Sometimes our lives feel like the USS Laffey as we endure one suicide plane slamming into us after another, trying to sink us.

But some might ask: Are there demons still roaming the skies and seas today, lurking there, waiting to destroy us? If you’re asking, “Are there people who suffer from demon-possession like this man,” the answer, I believe, is yes.

And yet, I believe that demons, while they may not always possess the soul of an individual as visibly as in the story here in Luke 8, do cause people significant distress and cause them to do destructive things. I think about people in the grip of drug abuse or alcohol addiction or caught up in destructive lusts of the flesh that inflict pain not only on them but on others around them.

And whether these forces are chemical or psychological, there can be little doubt that they are still the remnants of a fallen world that Satan exploits.

An example would be a teenager who’s making poor choices right now with marijuana dabbing (if you don’t know what this is, look it up), drinking, and other risky behaviors, been in and out of short-term mental health facilities, threatened to take own life multiple times. Her dad, he says (perhaps without thinking too deeply about his words), “I’m not sure what demons she’s fighting.”

We use this language of “fighting demons.” Truth be told, we are all fighting demons—some people more than others. And you can see the wake of destruction that’s left in the lives of people.

So, when we find ourselves here, what do we do? We cling to the Gospel. And the Gospel proclaims simply this: “[Jesus came] to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8). While Satan claims to be the destroyer, the Gospel proclaims that

Satan, the Destroyer, Has Been Disarmed at the Cross and Will One Day Be Destroyed.

The apostle Paul says in Col 2:15 that Jesus has disarmed the powers of evil, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. And so we cling to Jesus, knowing that by his death and resurrection he has destroyed Satan’s power and will deliver us from the destruction that the devil desires to inflict upon us.

We find this as we turn to two places: (1) We go back to our Baptism. Sometimes this is lost in the modern baptismal rite, but in years past, Baptism was seen as an exorcism. The LSB Altar Book includes an alternate form of the Baptism service, based on Martin Luther’s Baptism rite. In it, the baptizer says, “Depart, you unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (LSB Altar Book, p 374).

Speaking of Baptism, notice what happens to the herd of pigs that the demons are cast into. They rush down a steep embankment and are drowned. And isn’t that what Baptism signifies? Martin Luther says: “It indicates that the Old Adam in us [perhaps we could say, the demons in our lives] should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires” (SC, Baptism, Fourth Part).

And so, when we face our demons, we declare over them that we are baptized, that they now have no power over us.

Which brings us to the second place we turn: (2) We go back to the words of the Bible. We go to the clear words of God that proclaim Jesus’ victorious death on the cross, the forgiveness of sins it won, and the power of God over the onslaughts of Satan that it is. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4).

And then, as we continue to experience the deliverance of Jesus in our lives, we simply tell our story. Like those sailors aboard the USS Laffey, who limped away from battle, scarred and yet victorious, and told their story. Like the man who was once demon-possessed, who was told by Jesus to “return to [his] home, and declare how much God had done for” him. We, too, have a story to tell. And that story begins at home. We tell those who know us well what Jesus has done for us.

I think of a teenager, who got pretty deep into drugs and other risky behaviors. Yet, over time, Jesus had his way in her heart, and she came back to the Church, back to the promises of her Baptism, back to the truths of the Bible.

And while she’d burned many bridges in her community and hurt many who were closest to her, she felt compelled to come home “and declare how much God had done for” her. Now, she serves on a church staff part-time.

On top of this, she works for a local agency that provides counsel and support to women dealing with addiction and other mental health challenges. The local police with whom she used to have regular run-ins are now her advocates. And at every opportunity, she tells her story—a story of the hell she went through—because God wanted to give her heaven.

Tell that story. And tell it well. It’s an epic story—even greater than John Wukovits’s book—of the Destroyer who delivered us from the destroyer. Amen.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, guard and keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.