This summer we have been looking at a number of encounters in the Bible different people had with God. When these are in the
New Testament, these encounters are in the person of Jesus. We’ve been examining them. Looking what effects if any the
encounter had on them. What we can learn from them and bring to our own Divine Encounters with God. This week is very
interesting for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Jesus encounters a number of entities in one person. It is a
conglomeration called Legion.
This all occurs in the Gerasenes, which is a part of the region referred to as the Decapolis, a group of 10 city-states that answered
directly to Rome. They were the center of Greek and Roman culture in the area and didn’t have much in the way of Judean
influence as in other parts of Palestine. There may have been Jewish people living there, but they probably were not actively
practicing their religion.
Jesus and the Disciples were traveling from the western to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. It was one of the times when a
storm blew up during their trip. Jesus was asleep in the boat, and the rest of them were frantic. They wake him, and he calms the
storm. You would think that the Disciples would be happy, right? Greatful? No, they are afraid and amazed. “They asked one another,
‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and he water, and they obey him'” (Luke 8:25).
Today’s primary Scripture passage picks up as the journey continues.
Luke 8:26-39 NIV
26 They sailed to the region of the [Ger-a-seenes] Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee.
27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time
this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he
cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of
the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come
out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under
guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not
to order them to go into the Abyss.
32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the
pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the
herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and
countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the
man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were
afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the
people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he
got into the boat and left.
38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying,
39 “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.
There’s a lot to a name. Think of the name of a loved one. It might even be their nickname. What does thinking of that name
bring up inside of you? There is a lot in a name. There are stories. There is history. There are memories. Some are named after
people. What is the story of your name? Do you know it? Do any of you remember comedy puppet act of Shari Lewis and Lamb
Chop? Apparently, I am named after Shari Lewis the ventriloquist. My mother chose a different spelling, but there you have it.
Last names can have a story too. My great grandfather, emigrated from Russia soon after the Russian Revolution. His name was
Khuchinsky. In the 1950s, during the Red Scare of the McCarthy era, his son, my grandfather had his family’s name changed to
“Kaye,” because of the unwanted attention a Russian last name brought.
These are names that are given, bestowed, inherited. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, one who wrestles with God. God also
named John the Baptist (Luke 1:13), and, of course, God named Jesus too (Luke 1:31), which means God saves.
Then, there are the names we give ourselves. Of course, if you want to go through the legal hassle, you can legally change your
name to whatever you want. However, that’s not what I mean. We give ourselves names or labels. We tell stories about
ourselves. We have our perspectives about the place we occupy in the world. We can have positive names for ourselves like
encourager, organizer, friendly. We can also have negative names for ourselves such as lazy, stupid, worthless, hopeless, addict,
failure, angry, misunderstood.
The more we talk to ourselves using these negative names, the more we start to believe them. This results in issues and problems.
It affects our relationships. We become more isolated. We become more defined by the issues we have than by who God created
us to be.
The Good News is that there is one who can see past all that, see past all the names and labels we give ourselves. There is one who
sees us as we truly are, as we truly were meant to be. God sees us as his child. The one he created and shaped. No matter how we
contort ourselves, he knows our true shape.
In today’s Scripture, we have the narrative of Jesus leaving Jewish territory. It is one of the first times he goes to help someone in
Gentile territory. This place has different customs and beliefs, and he does it to find just one person. We know this because he
doesn’t do anything else there in the Decapolis. He shows us that the Kingdom of God can be for anyone who is hurting and seeking,
people who are looking for hope and healing.
Jesus arrives, and this man approaches him immediately. This man was so troubled that his family and community had washed
their hands of him. They tried to help him the best that they could, but he was impossible. Now, he lived naked among the tombs.
Can you imagine?
Jesus asks him his name. The man no longer has a name. His labels have taken over. He no longer has a personal identity. “I am
Legion.” A Roman legion was about 6000 soldiers. Can you imagine being so overwhelmed that it was like you were occupied by
a legion of evil?
It was a problem beyond the man’s control. His problems were so overwhelming that he was never going to be able to solve them
on his own. The people of his community could not solve them, as hard as they tried. Only Jesus could do it.
Some of us can feel like we have to have our lives cleaned up before we come to Jesus, before we pray for his help, before we can live
lives as followers. We do not have to wait. We can’t wait. If we maintain that attitude, we will be forever separated from God.
Did you notice what Legion did? He plunked himself right in front of Jesus as soon as Jesus stepped out of the boat. Yet, his
problems were on full display.
Some of us think we should be able to resolve it on our own. You know, take personal responsibility. Be strong. Be independent.
Suck it up. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. How’s that been working for you? I’ve said it many times. The Bible does NOT say,
“God helps those who help themselves.” It was an idea from ancient Greece. It was popularized during the enlightenment by Good
Ol’ Benjamin Franklin. Not really one I would go to for advice on following Jesus. Information on diplomacy? Yes. Christian living?
Accepting that we cannot do it on our own, that we need God’s help is what God is longing for. After all, that is the primary reason
that Jesus came, to do for us what is impossible for us to do for ourselves, to grant us pardon, to redeem us, AND to give us new
In July, we talked about the new life Jesus gave the woman taken in adultery. He did not condemn her. He told her to “Go and leave
your life of sin.” Go and have a new life free of condemnation.
Here, we have a man so overwhelmed with so many things. Many of us … or perhaps I should just speak for myself … one thing can
be enough to overwhelm me. (Not all things, mind you.) Jesus encounters this man, and he is completely changed. He also has been
given new life. Jesus can do it for us too. This doesn’t mean that we don’t use the resources that God provides, but having the hope
and the confidence that God’s hand is in it.
So, this restored man wants to go with Jesus, but instead Jesus tells him to return home to tell people how much God has done for
him … And he does it!
We don’t know this man’s religious affiliation. We are in the Decapolis, so it’s unlikely that he is Jewish. Yet, Jesus tells him to tell
his community how much God has done for him.
Have you ever thought about how much God has done for you? Have you ever thought about what it might be? Have you ever thought
about what life would be like without God? There are so many things God does that we don’t even realize. The car accident we didn’t
get into. Not the near miss that makes us exclaim, “Thank you, Jesus!” I’m talking about the one we didn’t even know about because
we were behind someone we thought was going slow. The phone call that came at just the right time. The call that didn’t come that kept
you from getting into a dangerous situation.
Then there are the very noticeable things. One of the biggest ones for me is that I don’t have to participate in this dog eat dog world,
the rat race that is this world of sin and death. The world where the rules change every day, and you can never seem to get ahead.
We may think that we don’t have to experience that because we are in Wallowa County, but there is plenty of that here too. Otherwise,
we wouldn’t need things like food banks or have housing shortages or people plain taking advantage of each other. I see it every day,
even here in Wallowa County.
Part of the reason that we are appalled by what we see in the news is that this isn’t the world we belong to. We know that the systems
that create these situations aren’t right. We belong to the Kingdom of God. We are children of God. We get to live that way now, and
it is so freeing even though we have to do it here in this broken world.
We need to tell people what God has done for us!
There are about 7000 people living in Wallowa County. When I think of all the churches in the county, I would guess that about 600
that attend a church on a regular basis. Maybe it’s 700, but let’s call it an even 1000. That means that there are conservatively 6000
people who are not affiliated with a church. I would certainly expect a percentage of them to know God. Some of them love God
greatly but have been burned by the church or don’t feel comfortable in the churches they’ve tried. And, that’s a whole different
But, what it really means is that there are thousands of people around us who don’t know God, and bless us, God, who can spread
the knowledge any way he wants … wants us to do it by talking to each other, by building relationships.
As Paul writes in Romans 10:14, “How can [people] call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one
of whom they have not heard?” Moving down to verse 17, “… Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard
through the word about Christ.”
What is that message? What God has done for us!
But you know what? We cannot do that if we don’t know what that is. And if we are waiting to fix ourselves first, we especially
can’t do it.
So, when you get home, I want you to make two lists. You have a handy dandy bulletin insert to help you with this.
1. What am I waiting to fix in myself before I feel worthy to go to God? And/or What do I think I ought to be able to fix myself
without God’s help? Give these things over to God. Go to God and admit to God and yourself, “I can’t do this on my own.
Help me.” It doesn’t mean ignore the problem. It doesn’t mean you won’t have a part to play, but like Blind Bartamaus, we can
cry out “Jesus, Son of David (Son of God), have mercy me” (Mark 10:47).
2. What is going on in your life that you feel that you can’t trust God with? Can’t find refuge with God in?What has God done
3. What is different in your life because you are a follower of Jesus?
Once you have made these lists, think about them. Pray over them. Give thanks to God about them. Have them readily accessible in
your mind. So, when you’re in a conversation with a friend or acquaintance, and God gives you the opportunity to share … Maybe
they feel buried under a “legion” of problems. Maybe it’s one problem that is overwhelming … You can say, “You know what’s helped
A person finds out that you go to church, and they may flat out ask you, “Why do you believe in God, believe in Jesus?” You will
have something to say, “This is what God has done for me.”
But, if we don’t think about it, if we don’t remember it, we will come out with an answer like, “I don’t know, I just believe. You just
have to believe. Then there’s my personal favorite, “Because.” I’ve got to tell you. These answers are not terribly compelling. That is
part of why we can dread those kinds of conversations. But, if we have considered it beforehand, we will do much better.
You know what else? Just going through this exercise will bring you closer to God. You will remember, and it will deepen your
relationship. It will help you to let go of all of those other hurtful names, and you will learn to live in your true name, Child of God.
It will become the most special of Divine Encounters.