"Against the Spiritual Forces of Evil" Sermon / Luke 8:26–39 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 25th 2019 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 23rd 2019: Season of Pentecost / Luke 8:26–39 "Against the Spiritual Forces of Evil"
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met Him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before Him and said with a loud voice, “What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged Him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged Him to let them enter these. So He gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So He got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. “O little flock, fear not the Foe Who madly seeks your overthrow; Dread not his rage and power; and though your courage sometimes faints, His seeming triumph o'er God's saints Lasts but a little hour.” Good Christian Friends, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” And in one way this is easy to understand because we know it from personal experience yet in another way it is a challenge to understand because the World works to convince us that such spiritual forces do not exist. However we know that as Christians “we walk by faith, not by sight.” For as Jesus said to Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, “have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
When Jesus casts out demons, it is like when He changes water into wine, heals the sick, walks on water, or calms the storm at sea: Think on the man born blind and the question Jesus’ disciples asked just before Jesus gives the man sight, they asked, “Rabbi [that is teacher], who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [And] Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I Am the Light of the world.” … Ahhh … “but that the works of God might be displayed in him,” In today’s Gospel Jesus was going to the Pagans, the Hellenists, the cultural and ethnic Greeks who lived in the Decapolis (the ten cities) and as He arrives Jesus is greeted not be a man born blind but by a man possessed by demons living naked in a graveyard. The disciples could just as easily ask Jesus “who sinned, this man or his parents, that this man became possessed by demons?” And Jesus’ answer would likely be the same; this man ultimately became an opportunity for the works of God to be displayed in him, a chance for Jesus to show mercy even to the gentiles, to the none-Jewish folks in the region around the Sea of Galilee.
When you place this reading from the Gospel of St. Luke in its context it teaches us something very important about Jesus. Earlier in this Gospel Jesus has another encounter with a man possessed with a devil, that time it didn’t happen with Gentiles, with Pagans, with non-Jewish folk that time it happened with a Jewish man, listen to how it went,
“And [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And He was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at His teaching, for His word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and He cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown [the man] down in their midst, he came out of [the man], having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power [this Jesus] commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about [Jesus] went out into every place in the surrounding region.”
When you put these two passages together from the Gospel of St. Luke you see that Jesus is not just going to be for the Jews, it’s not that Jesus only has authority amongst the Jews but this Jesus also has authority amongst the Gentiles; the none-Jewish folk. Yes this is how God the Father loved the World that He sent into the World His Son Jesus not for some people but for all people Jews and non-Jews alike. This Jesus is the one who shows mercy and compassion, Jesus who has authority over all that is seen and unseen, even over the spiritual forces of evil. See if you can catch the parallel from today’s reading, “When [the demon possessed man] saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before [Jesus] and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For [Jesus] had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.”
Did you catch it? “I know who You are—the Holy One of God.” … “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” What does St. James say, “Even the demons believe [in the unity of God]—and shudder!” They recognize who this Jesus is, this same Jesus who confesses before His Father in heaven and humanity saying “I and the Father are one.” Even the demons know the truth of what we confess in the Apostles', the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds. “Be of good cheer; your cause belongs To Him who can avenge your wrongs; Leave it to Him, our Lord. Though hidden yet from mortal eyes, His Gideon shall for you arise, Uphold you and His Word.” This Jesus that you hear of today is for you and “As true as God's own Word is true. Not earth nor hell’s satanic crew Against us shall prevail. Their might a joke a mere façade! God is with us, we we with God; Our victory cannot fail.”
I started off by saying that all this talk of the demonic and the supernatural, and the spiritual forces of evil in one way are in fact easy to understand because we know it from personal experience yet in another way they are a challenge to understand because the World works to convince us that such spiritual forces do not exist. Now I want you to think a little bit about the way in which it is easy to understand. I’ll start by asking you a couple of questions. “Do you need to hear the voice of a demon to know that they exist? Do you need to see a devil with your own two eyes to know they exist?” … now let me ask you, “If you can’t smell a radon gas leak in your house can it still harm you? If you cannot see bacteria or a virus can they still harm you if you come in contact with them? If you don’t believe in the ultraviolet and infrared radiation of the sun will that keep you from getting sunburnt if you are out all day unprotected? Can a person die of exposure, or disease or a gas leak beyond the natural perception of humanities five senses? Yes. You understand that unseen forces and conditions can be hazardous so to with the supernatural world especially when it comes to the spiritual forces of evil that stalk you day and night.
The demonic take advantage of the fallen nature of mankind and our inability to recognize them as they work, for while we can set up a radon gas detector and can study bacteria and viruses under powerful microscopes and utilize uv radiation detectors we don’t have scientific ways to measure or detect the spiritual forces of evil directly. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there it just means we can’t detect them by those means. Few people will see or hear anything when it comes to these things but they are around us and Scripture warns us of the things that put us in contact with them, “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.” In fact the Bible teaches that the sorcerers are numbered with “the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” When it comes to the occult we are warned “not turn to [such practitioners, and not] not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them” for they are seeking to tap into, communicate with and or control spiritual forces in which the demons are numbered. The none-Christian, the unbeliever, therefore is in real danger if they involve themselves in such things and so is the Christian. Pastor I don’t go to mediums, I don’t have my fortune read! I'm not going to have my tea leaves read or anything like that! Good, even still those who are baptized and believe in Jesus who avoid such this still require warning and Scripture tells us plainly that the “adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Jesus too warns of how the devil acts like the birds of the air seeking constantly to devour the seed of God’s Word right out of the hearts of those who hear it, like seagulls in a parking lot fighting over an abandoned french-fry. The unbelieving, the un-baptized, have no real defence against these attacks, yet be warned the one who is baptized but then abandons their faith for what the World offers likewise is in grave danger. Remember evil can be driven out of a person but if that person doesn’t have Christ Jesus there in their heart to replace that evil thing may get even worse.
Don’t take it from me, take it from Jesus who on another occasion when He was again exorcising a demon out of a mute man just a little bit later in the Gospel of St. Luke provides this warning, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Jesus takes the demonic seriously and He experienced the temptations of the devil in the wilderness after His baptism so why should you not experience the temptations of the devil in the wilderness of this World after your baptism? This is the way in which it is easiest to understand how it is that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” You understand this because you have faced temptation, as a Christian you have faced temptation and you have resisted the temptation to sin and you have faced temptation and you have failed and fallen into sin. And not just with the spooky things but with the common things like theft and anger and lust and gossip and coveting what isn’t yours to have.
You have experienced this because of your internal struggle with the Old Adam, your sinful flesh that wages a war against your regenerated baptismal life in Christ. You have experienced it as a result of the demonic trying to have its way with you. The root of all this temptation to sin is The Devil, of whom Jesus says alluding back to the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve that “He [that is The Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. [Jesus says] When he [that is The Devil] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” All temptations into sin, these “flaming darts of the evil one,” take advantage of lies and the twisting of the truth.
The purpose of the often invisible assaults of the devil, the evil way he takes advantage of our fallen estate, where he looks for weaknesses like the chemical brokenness of the mind or failure in morals or defects in character, is to press hard against such things in a attempt to cause the person to topple over like an unkempt and weathered wooden fence full of rotting boards and all of this is done in order to make you fearful, to shake your faith, to create doubt about your salvation, to make you scatter away from your Good Shepherd, Jesus. But who has the upper hand in your life; The devil? Who fights for you against such attacks? “Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer; Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare, Fight for us once again! So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise A mighty chorus to Thy praise, Forevermore. Amen.”
These accounts of Jesus performing exorcisms and demonstrating His authority over the spiritual forces of evil are recorded in the Bible first because they happened; and also to stand before you as evidence that Jesus has dominion over all things, including things like these. Your risen and ascended Lord Jesus says to you “Fear not, I Am the First and the Last, and The Living One. I died, and behold I Am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” These keys do not belong to the Devil or to anyone else. Also they are there to remind you that when a person is freed from such possession, such spiritual forces of evil, they are changed. Such exorcisms still happen on the mission field and in our back yard here in Canada and I can tell you a couple stories about that some other time if you’re interested but they have the same kind of effect that we see in our Gospel today.
“When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed.” The healed man wanted to go away with Jesus and His disciples but Jesus instead sent him as a missionary to his own none-Jewish Gentile people the Hellenists, the cultural and ethnic Greeks who lived in the Decapolis (the ten cities) “saying [to him], “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And [this man healed by Jesus] went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” We can do the same, you may not have had a legion of demons cast from you yet you can go out and proclaim how much Jesus has done for you, how He has forgiven you of your sins, and has had mercy on you in your time of need. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Ephesians 6:12
 2 Corinthians 5:7
 John 20:29
 John 9:2–5
 Concordia Commentary Luke 1:1-9:50, Arthur A. Just Jr., Concordia Publishing House 1996, Pg 362
 Luke 4:31–37
 James 2:19
 John 10:30
 LSB #666 verse 2.
 LSB #666 verse 3.
 UV radiation was discovered in 1801 when the German physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter (1776–1810).
 Deuteronomy 18:10–12a
 Revelation 22:15
 Leviticus 19:31
 1 Peter 5:8
 Luke 8:5,11–12
 Mark 16:16–17b, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons.”
 Luke 11:24–26
 Luke 4:1–13
 Genesis 3
 John 8:44
 Ephesians 6:16
 LSB #666 verse 4.
 Revelation 1:17–18