Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Finishing Up Jesus' Enemy Contact in Mark & Luke (XVII)

Let's continue our examination of how Jesus encountered evil and how He dealt with Satan:

And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.  When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.  (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)… Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.

Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee.

And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. (Luke 8:27-29 & 37-40)

We met the two demon-possessed men earlier.  Luke decides to focus on just the one (Wycliffe Bible Commentary 220).  Both were healed, but one stayed and shows us vividly how demon oppression works.  The man still had a will for he came to Jesus.  (Wycliffe Bible Commentary 221). If the demons were in complete control, the man would have run away from Jesus as fast as he could, for the demons knew what Jesus could do: drive them out and heal the man. 

Here’s where a definition is useful. In the Greek, the word used to describe what the man in the tombs was afflicted with is “demonization” This means “the presence of an evil personality (a demon) within an individual” (Richards 83).  

Richards continues:

"This does not means or imply that a demonized person is controlled by an evil presence.  He or she typically might not even be aware of the demon or demons.  It says simply that from a position within the human personality the demon has a unique opportunity to influence an individual’s thoughts, emotions and choices.  This is different from the sporadic attacks of demons on an individual from the outside—attacks that need to be repelled, but that can generally be dispatched without great effort once they are recognized." (83)

So, unlike the man who sat in the synagogue every Sabbath and then reacted when Jesus walked in, this guy was clearly (to everyone around him and to himself) overtaken with a demon and more than one as it turned out.  But he still had a will.  He wasn’t a puppet only capable to doing what he was told.  So, he approaches Jesus (his choice) and then screams at Jesus (the demons’ choice). 

A terrible imbalance exists in the life of someone who is being oppressed.  The man cuts himself and hangs out with the dead.  He is clearly being tormented; but he approaches Jesus, sensing something different about this Man.  The man senses that Jesus is not here to chain him up or throw stones at him. 

That is what we need to understand.  A person under the influence of a demon has not checked his or her will at the door.  This person can still think, reason and react.  Jesus spoke to the demon directly, just as He did when Peter was Satan’s mouthpiece.
 
Satan drives those whom he influences out into the spiritual wilderness, where addictions and distractions keep the person in bondage.  The bondage itself is not the end; the person’s destruction and death is Satan’s goal.  So, the longer in the wilderness, the greater chance that Satan will succeed in his plan for the person.

That’s when we speak truth into the life of a person.  We speak the truth of Satan’s agenda without condemning the person, but lovingly telling them where their lives are going to end up. 
Then we speak Truth into their lives:  Truth is Jesus Christ and His way leads to life and life abundantly.

This man’s restoration was not initially celebrated by the townsfolk.  You would think that losing some pigs was not as important compared to this man who was now in “his right mind” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary 221).

Family and friends can be an impediment to a new believer achieving recovery and freedom in Jesus Christ.  It is critical that we mentor someone who has walked away from Satan’s influence.  We must teach and encourage this person to keep leaning into Jesus with prayer and time in His Word.  This is what keeps us pressing on:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (Phil. 3:12-14 NIV)

The man wanted to follow Jesus.  Jesus wanted him to be active now in his faith.  As the man shared his story with each person he met, this would reinforce his new life.  It would remind him of God’s grace and love in his restoration.  He would be under no delusions that he had somehow handled his former life on his own. Equally, his new life was only sustainable with God’s power. He would have to rely on God every moment of every day. 

The results?  The people received Jesus positively the next time He came around.  This man was a walking testimony to Jesus, His ministry and His love.   

We cannot recover from demonic oppression on our own.  It takes walking with Jesus every day.  We need to stay connected to the family of God.  Our new life is tender and takes time to grow.

Next up, we will walk with Jesus as He encounters evil in the Gospel of John.

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