I am preaching through the Gospel of Luke, presently in chapter eight. While I am an expository preacher I am not adverse in developing topical messages from the passage in which I find myself. This past Sunday, December 30th provided an opportunity to do just that.
Luke 8:26-39 gives the account of Jesus’ encounter with a demon possessed man. This guy was a mess. He was running around naked in the local cemetery and all attempts to restrain him failed as he would bust loose from his chains and torment the locals.
While it is interesting to look at the nature of demon possession and the process by which Jesus delivered this man, I believe that it is more instructive to look at the reactions to this event, especially as they relate to the making of resolutions at New Years.
Look at the reaction of the onlookers. They were afraid. Not afraid of the crazy naked guy, but deathly afraid of the Jesus who had delivered him. So afraid, as a matter of fact, that they beg and plead with Jesus to leave their town. Why this fear? I see a couple of reasons.
First, they had become accustomed to the status quo. Crazy naked guy running around the graveyard? That is normal. Son of God driving out demons? Not something that you see everyday. Change is scary, even if it is change for the better. We will keep what we know, even if it is destructive, over that which we don’t know.
Second, somebody lost some pigs. Lots and lots of pigs. This was a major financial loss to the owner. While it is immediately evident that the owner of the pigs would be frightened, why was everyone else afraid? I imagine that the line of thought went something like this: “If we let that Jesus guy hang around it might just end up costing us something.”
So much fear that it could very well be that they were gathering up tar and feathers if Jesus didn’t depart voluntarily. Fear of change and fear of loss. Fear of the unknown and fear of loss of control. Never mind that any change that Jesus would bring would be positive.
Contrast this to the reaction of the man delivered from the legion of demons. Verse 35 tells us that he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind”. Not only that, he asks to remain with Jesus, and seeks direction from Jesus. Jesus tells him to “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you” (verse 39a, ESV). I have no doubt that he did just this, but he also “went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him”. Both his family and his community benefited from his communion with Christ.
Two radically different reactions result from this event. The onlookers are afraid, and want Jesus to depart. The man delivered from demons wants to stay close to Jesus and is willing to accept direction from Him.
How about us as we enter 2008? There are lots and lots of resolutions that we could make; some of them trivial and others substantial. Some of our resolutions will be forgotten before the end of January while others might result in lifetime changes to our behavior. I believe that there are a couple of lessons that we can learn from this Scripture.
First, we need to quit living in fear of what God wants to do with us. Oft times we believe that trusting God is dangerous business. God, we fear, can be dangerous both to our pocketbooks and to our lifestyles. We have grown so accustomed to the smell of the pigs and the sights of insanity that we can’t imagine what it would be like to be delivered from them.
At the same time, we need to sit at the feet of Jesus. We need to enroll in His school and receive His wisdom. We need to depend upon Him for all of our needs and desires. In order to do this we need to daily feed on His Word and continually share our hearts with Him in prayer. We need to fellowship with His people, and we need to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We need to engage our families in the things of God just as Jesus commanded this man. Sitting at the feet of Jesus will also have one other result. Just like this man we will proclaim how much Jesus has done for us wherever we go.
Sit at the feet of Jesus. Learn from Him. Do this, and revel in His loveliness, and see that evangelism will be a natural part of your life. You will encounter plenty of folks who will not like it, to the point of fear and loathing of Christ, but being in your right mind certainly beats the alternative.
What do I resolve for 2008? One thing alone: I want to sit at the feet of Jesus and be His learner.