Swine Over Savior

Jesus visits a region, does a miracle, and the people of the town ask him to leave. Why is it that people sometimes don’t want Jesus in their life?

TRANSCRIPT

INTRODUCTION  

Let’s start with a thought exercise:  Do you think it’s reasonable to believe in God?  

I’m assuming by the fact that you are in a church this morning that you would answer that question with a “yes”…or, at least are open to the idea

So, most of us, in this room anyway, could say that it’s quite reasonable to believe in a spiritual “good” being. 

Well, then, what about a spiritual “evil” being?   

Statistically, this is where a lot of Americans jump off the bandwagon

While around 90% of Americans believe in God, only 57% of Americans believe the devil exists

And yet, that statistic, in itself, doesn’t have a lot of reason to it.  

If it’s reasonable to have one, it’s certainly not any less reasonable to have the other. 

Our passage in the Book of Luke today once again mentions spiritual evil and demons. 

As much as some of you would like to, we cannot escape this topic in the Gospels…the accounts of Jesus’ life. 

Jesus encounters demons quite often and seems to treat them as if they’re real

Now, He doesn’t think there is a demon behind every bush…as a lot of people do. 

But for Jesus, sin and evil in the world is an intertwining of a whole lot of things. 

Look at Matthew 4:24 for example: 

(Matthew 4:24) – NIV

News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.

Jesus didn’t look at every sick person or every struggling person, and say, “You have a demon” 

No, he believed some people had physical issues, some psychological issues, and others, truly had demonic issues. 

So as uncomfortable as these sorts of passages make some of us feel, we still need to be open to these sorts of spiritual solutions. 

Okay, let’s take a look at our passage for today.  

(Page 840)  - Luke 8

(Renovation App)  

Jesus has just calmed the storm, and this next story is going to happen literally right as he steps ashore.  

(Luke 8:26-39) – NIV            

26 They sailed to the region of the 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.

So we have this man who is demonized and crazy. 

They tried to put him in some type of confinement, but he just broke his chains and went up into the tombs on the hillside of the Sea of Galilee…

…where he ran around naked, and Mark tells us in his gospel, that the man would even would cut himself with stones and scream out…night and day. 

NOBODY went near this guy. 

Jesus though…is unafraid. 

So Jesus asks him, “What is your name,” 

He answers Legion. 

Now, a legion was a unit in the Roman army that had a whole lot of soldiers. 

The number varied over the years, but it typically consisted of somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 soldiers. 

So commentators believe that it’s possible that this man had, literally, thousands of demons in him. 

Before you go, “How is that even possible?”  

Realize that we know not even a fraction of 1% about what is “spatially possible” in the spiritual world. 

Perhaps all the demons had assembled together…knowing that Jesus was on his way.  

 

 

THE PIGS  

But they are no match for Jesus. 

Think about this: There are, most likely, THOUSANDS, of demons in that man, and Jesus just says, “GO,” and bam, they’re gone.  

That, by the way, is the power you have available in you over sin and darkness!  …don’t you ever forget that!

So Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs. 

Now, I don’t know if you’re like me, but if you’ve read this story before, I always pictured, like, 40 pigs going off the cliff. 

When I was studying this week, I noticed that Mark’s Gospel tells us that there were actually TWO-THOUSANDS pigs in that herd! 

Which really kind of makes sense with what we were just talking about.  

Thousands of demons to influence thousands of pigs. 

But as a modern, western people, many object to this story.  

We say, “But what about the pigs?!?”  “Why would Jesus do such a thing to those innocent animals?” 

Okay, well, firstly, there’s A LOT of cultural filters we have to sort through first…on both sides of history. 

First we have to understand what Jesus’ followers thought about pigs.  

(DECAPOLIS MAP)

When Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, he left the Jewish region of Galilee on the West side of the Lake, and entered into the non-Jewish region, on the East side of the Lake, called the Decapolis

In fact, there aren’t really many Jewish people here at all…as evidenced, first & foremost, by the herd of 2,000 pigs. 

You may know that Jewish people don’t eat pork.  

Why?  Because the OT declared pigs to be unclean (Jesus in the NT declares all foods clean…with the exception of broccoli.  

So think about this situation (I was kidding about the broccoli this)… from the disciples perspective (who are watching it all unfold)

To the Jewish disciples, moving impure spirits from a man living among impure tombs into impure animals was a fitting judgment.  

So Jesus’ followers aren’t bothered that the demons go into the swine.   

To them, the death of animals is worth saving even one person.  

In Scripture, the eternal soul of a person is INFINITELY more important than any animal.   

But for our culture, that, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. 

I remember seeing in the news this past year that Rhino poachers in South Africa were killed by a pride of lions.  

And people were sharing it on Social Media with a sprinkle of confetti and saying, “Serves them right!” 

Listen, if you love animals, that’s great…but animals are never more important than a human soul…

So why does Jesus send the demons into the pigs in the first place? 

His main reason is to demonstrate to the spectators (and the whole town that comes out later) what really happened.  

That yes, the man WAS possessed…and not just mentally challenged.  

And yes, Jesus will, at the expense of 2,000 pigs, saves a man to prove it.   

 

 

THEY ASK JESUS TO LEAVE

Okay, now imagine you’re there.  

You’re out for a gingerly walk along the Sea of Galilee when you happen to see 2,000 pigs jumping off a steep bank and into the lake

You run towards the scene, and when you get there, and you see the “town maniac” that all the local children had nightmares about…

…now dressed (finally!), and in his right mind.  

And you quickly figure out this is all Jesus’ doing. 

What are you going to say to Jesus? 

If you didn’t know the story, you’d THINK that they would say, “Sir, please, come into our town…tell us more about God.  You can stay at my house tonight!” 

This is, in fact, how many people respond to Jesus in the Gospels. 

But not this town. 

And I think, to me anyway, this is the most fascinating and befuddling part of this story. 

Look at verse 37:  

(Luke 8:37) – NIV

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.

The Son of God shows up to THEIR little town…does an amazing miracle…and they say, “Get out.”  And He does. 

W O W  

Why would they ever, in a million years, ask Him to leave?  

Here’s why…so often…

We are afraid of what God will do and demand when we surrender our lives to Him.   (– Leave that up for 3 or 4 minutes )

I want you to write that down           

We’re told that after they see Jesus do this miracle, they are “overcome with fear” 

They rightfully identify that if Jesus is this powerful, if they let him into their lives, they would need to surrender to Him.  

They couldn’t live half for Him and half for themselves.  

Yet, most modern people don’t, in fact, understand this about Jesus

If you think Jesus is just a nice add-on to your life who can give you warm fuzzies when you request, you are sorely mistaken.  

He is God Almighty, God incarnate…and His desire is to be an absolute authority in your life…not a warm-fuzzies machine on-command. 

Look at verse 35 again: 

 (Luke 8:35) – NIV

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.

They people saw the change in the man and were afraid. 

They could see that if you really start following Jesus…He WILL change you.  

And honestly, they’re not sure if they want it.  

I remember when I came to Christ at 18

Some people didn’t like it. 

Some would say, “I miss the old David.  He was more fun.”  (yeah, and foolish!) 

I remember some people saying, “Don’t worry, it’s just a phase.” (whoops!)

The people aren’t sure they want to change…they’re afraid of surrender

Because humans, we often love our sin, more than we love the savior.  

And for many of us, that can be all sorts of sin.  

For most of the people in this town, I suspect it was their sin of greed and their reliance on money to bring them happiness. 

I know this may seem hard to believe, but these people weren’t raising pigs because they thought they were cute & cuddly. 

The pigs were their financial livelihood.  

Probably a lot of people’s if there were 2,000 of them. 

I heard one person say that it this would be like if Jesus cast demons out of someone, and sent them into 2,000 cars at a family’s car dealership, and all 2,000 cars drove off a cliff. 

They people weren’t going, “Oh, the poor little piggies…they’re going, “My money!!!  My life!!!  I’m ruined!” 

The intensity of Jesus, regarding what life is really about, is on full display in this passage. 

He wants your life…ALL OF IT. 

And if you have to leave everything behind…if you have to lose all your money, all your relationships to follow Him…then you better follow Him….because He’s WORTH following. 

This is reminiscent of when Jesus met the Rich Young Ruler (which will happen later on in Luke) 

The young ruler tells Jesus he has dutifully kept all the commandments. 

(Luke 18:22-23) – NIV  

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.

And the man decides to choose his money over Jesus, and doesn’t follow Him. 

The people of this city are doing the exact same thing. 

They’ve chosen their SWINE OVER THE SAVIOR

If by Jesus sticking around in their lives, that means there exists the risk of them losing even more of their pigs, and more of their money…

…well, then, Jesus better leave.  

But they can’t see that the Savior is infinitely better than their swine. 

And I think pigs is an apt illustration. 

Really anything you choose over Jesus is like swine in comparison to him. 

There is nothing that compares to his incomparable worth!

All the wealth in this world is not worth you rejecting Jesus. 

Nor is it worth you half-heartedly following Jesus. 

And in some ways, the people of this city are actually more rational than those who call themselves Christians but don’t give Jesus absolute authority over their lives and decisions. 

These people at least realize that to let Jesus into their lives means they would have to fully surrender to Him.  

And yet, there are so many American Christians who want to have one foot in Christianity and the other foot completely in the world…living in greed, lust, and just like everyone else. 

I get that some of you here are just checking out God for the first time…you, just keep coming back…keep looking.  

But for those of you that have been hanging around Christian circles for a few years now…you have to ask yourself:  “Am I a follower of Christ or I am not?”

Am I willing to let him come in and give Him authority or do I still want it both ways?  

Because one day you will have to choose. 

As Jesus says himself in Matthew 6, “you cannot serve two masters” 

You’re going to pick one of them someday. 

On Friday, I was organizing up some of my email contacts, and I came across a Renovation Church email list circa about 2012

And even though, one of the reasons we’ve grown so fast is hardly anyone ever leaves this church (surprise, you’re trapped)

There were actually a number of names on that list that are no longer here. 

And here’s what I saw as an incredibly painful pattern: 

Besides those who just moved to a different state…it seemed almost everyone else on the list (person after person)… had a foot in both worlds…the other foot following the culture. 

But eventually push came to shove.  It always does

And they picked sex over Jesus

They picked chasing money over Jesus

They picked identity in their career over Jesus

They chose to live first and foremost under the authority of those other things.  

But WHY?? 

Why would anyone do that, you say?? 

I’ll tell you why: 

We are afraid of what God will do and demand when we surrender our lives to Him.   (– Leave that up again)

We’re afraid of the COST of following Jesus.            

There are some of you in this room that are on the fence about following Christ… You’re not sure what to do. 

And there are a whole bunch of you in this room that at one point, you DID embrace Christ, but honestly, especially the last few years or so, you’ve refused to surrender your whole life to Him. 

Because you know (just like the people who’ve walked away from Him), you know it will COST you to follow Him

It will cost you the ease and convenience of your current life. 

But that’s the Cost of Discipleship as Deitrich Bonhoeffer said so eloquently years ago.  

(Luke 9:62) – NIV

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

You can have swine, or you can have the Savior…which one do you want? 

But if you’re always trying to get both, you’ll just end up with nothing. 

It profits a person nothing to gain the whole world, and not have Christ.  

But if you follow Jesus, you’re going to end up with everything…everything you’ll ever NEED anyway.  

I’ve been trying to follow Jesus for 18 years now. 

Sometimes admirably, sometimes embarrassingly so. 

I’ve found that every time I say, “Nah, that’s too hard to do Jesus…or I don’t want to give that up…and I just follow my flesh…

Every time I do that…I never get what I want…I’m never satisfied...never full” 

But EVERY TIME…I say, “God, I’m going to surrender that up to you…and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be awful…too hard…too painful” 

EVERY TIME…I find that’s it worth it. 

My flesh tells me to fear surrender…to fear His authority…to fear His demands. 

But I keep learning that my flesh, and the devil, are liars.

I don’t need to FEAR walking under his authority.  

NO, when I walk in His will… I come alive. 

When I walk in my flesh…it’s, IT”S the very thing that slowly kills me. 

Every year I progress in Christ, what I truly begin to FEAR…is following my flesh & desires, not surrendering to His authority.  

So if you’ve been messing up, playing both sides… 

Accept his grace today. He knows about it.  He forgave it on the cross. 

Start following Him again today.  It’s worth it.  

 

 

GO & TELL  

There’s one more thing in this passage I think we can’t miss. 

It’s a bit of a different direction…but I don’t want to miss it given what’s happening here over the next week or so. 

It’s about Jesus’ instructions to the possessed man who’s now been free. 

Look at verse 39 again: 

(Luke 8:38-39) – NIV

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.

This is what God wants us to do when He moves in our lives. 

Go home and tell how much God has done for you. 

Are you doing that? 

You’ve got a great opportunity to…even in the next 7 or 8 days. 

Go home…talk to your family members…your parents, siblings, cousins…any who don’t know Christ. 

Tell them what He’s done. 

Don’t live for your earthly reputation and comfort over their eternal salvation. 

If we do, we’re just putting our swine over the savior again. 

If it’s an easier beginning for you, invite them to come to a Christmas service with you next week. 

Start praying that God will move in their hearts!  

On your way out today, we’re giving you ONE invite card. 

Just one. 

I want you to pray, once a day, for one person next week.  

We need Jesus’ heart for people. 

Think about this in the context of Luke 8. 

Jesus was willing to go through the storm…for what…to save this man from Satan.  

What are you willing to go through to save people from the grasp of Satan and bring them into the Kingdom of light… 

We lose focus on Christmas…every year. 

Christmas isn’t about you spending $500 on presents, hopping from one part or family obligation to the next…it’s about Jesus…is it not?   

Be intentional with your schedule next week.  

Do whatever it takes to bring family members with you who need to hear the hope of Jesus!

And please, please, don’t write anyone off. 

Seriously. 

Because we do this. 

We write people off.  

We say, “They’re too far away from God.  Okay, that’s NEVER going to happen.” 

Are they naked and running around a graveyard right now? 

They’re not too far away for Jesus.   

God wants to use you! 

Think about this man. 

The recently saved man BEGS to go with Jesus. 

He’s ready to be the 13th disciple…hang out in the boat with all of these other Christians.  

Think about it: Probably the last thing in the world he ever wants to do is come back into his own home town…to his family…old neighbors…and the people who know him as a maniac. 

To the people who know only the worst of him. 

He’d rather just go hang out with Jesus and the Christians. 

And to his pleading request to come with, Jesus says…NO. 

Go back to your family…to your home town.   

The people may be scared of Jesus…but this guy has a story to tell.  

And Jesus leaves him there as a missionary.  

And we’re told that the man did exactly that…

And when he had finished sharing in his home town, he went to all of the Decapolis (mark tells us)…that’s 10 cities…telling people about Jesus. 

AND, watch this, the next time Jesus comes to the region, he gets a much warmer reception, and the people are begging him to come speak to them and heal their sick (you can see this at the end of Mark 7)  

And THIS…is how Jesus overcomes evil. 

With the Gospel…

Not with money

Not with political power

Not with hatred. 

With the Gospel!

At the end of the book of Luke, we’re going to see Jesus essentially taking the lowest position of all. 

In a sense, it’s like he traded places with this man from our passage  

As they lead him to the cross… 

Jesus is now the one crying out and bleeding

He’s now the one who’s naked…who has been stripped of his clothes. 

He’s now the one who has been driven to the tombs. 

But as Paul says in Romans 12, He overcomes evil…with good. 

With sacrifice…with surrender. 

We change the world not be putting ourselves first. 

Not by dabbling in Jesus but really living for our selfish desires. 

We change the world by surrendering to His will. 

By letting Him fully in. 

Let’s do it.


Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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