A Real Nowhere Man
June 19. 2016
Rev. Michael A. Trask
In Today’s gospel lesson, we have Jesus getting on a ship and crossing over to a heavy Gentile region known as the Gerasenes. The moment he gets off the ship he’s met by a man from Gerasa who was wearing no clothes. He had not worn clothes for some time. He had not lived in a house or a tent or any sort of shelter. His days and nights were spent outdoors living in a graveyard which was just as spooky back then as it is today The man was a disturbed individual.
Disturbed, is a good word to describe him, for he was a man who was disturbed by Demons. He was possessed by demons, but more then that, he was occupied by them. When asked for his name, the man did not speak for himself, but the one of the demons inside spoke. “We are Legion.” That’s a Roman Army term, A legion could be as many as 6000 Soldiers.
This guy had a bunch of Demons living inside him, he had lost his clothes, lost his friends, lost what job he might have had, lost his house, but too me, the saddest and greatest loss was the loss of his name.
Certainly, when he was born, his mother gave him a name. She chose his name with great care perhaps. As she dandled him about her knees, she would say it again and again; in this way he would learn his own name. Like any mother she would use it to call him in for supper. as he grew up and ran about town with his chums, they would use his name, bidding him to join them in play.
But all that was now gone. He was nothing but a shell of flesh used by the demonic army as their home. No identity except what that which his captors assigned to him: Legion. Everything he was, was now forgotten. But Jesus hadn’t forgotten. He Remembered who the man was before the demons took over; he remembered what he was made to be; quickly, he got rid of those demons and restored the man.
Now you got to wonder, how he got all messed up like this in the first place. Nobody sits down and says to themselves, “You know what, I want to want to lose my house, lose all of my friends, lose my name and all that I am, take off all my clothes, live out among the tombs and become a monster to everyone who sees me” Those are not the kind of goals that a person typically lays out as he consults with his life-coach.” And the way that this man was so relieved and happy after Jesus helped him, makes it clear that he did not want what he had become.
So what led him to descend to such depths? At some point he gave himself over to it, but it was probably kind of subtle and gradual. Perhaps he hit a rough patch in his life He came across this motivational speaker who seemed to be attracting a lot of people to his seminars. He’d say things like “If you can imagine it it will become a reality.” And people gathered around him were giggling with glee as they thought about the prospects of having such Godlike powers. Satan’s entry point is often the philosophy that we can be our won Gods. In many different ways his original temptation is rehashed and represented to men. Perhaps that’s what happened to this guy.
Or maybe it was one of the gentile Gods that got to him. All gods with the exception of the Lord are really false Gods. That’s because they send you in the opposite direction. The Lord says that he saves us, all other god’s say that you must save yourself doing stuff. Maybe the guy drove himself to madness because he realized he couldn’t save himself.
Or maybe it was just simply unbridled anger. Maybe he had a rough life and he was angry about it. He just stewed and stewed and stewed all day long over how rotten his lot had become. Powerful emotions like anger, sorrow, and envy, when indulged in, are excellent breeding ground for the Satan’s work.
Whatever it was, he would ultimately be overwhelmed by it. That’s how Satan works, most the time he’s subtle and gradual. And the points he makes seem to make such perfect sense… “Why yes of course! We say” But then when you follow his urgings your swallowed up.
And you don’t have to have demons living in you to be owned by Satan. Satan is perfectly happy to have you dedicate yourself to things besides him….just so it’s not God… and preferably super pointless so that you will be preoccupied with something that doesn’t really matter.
At many different times during our lives we are presented with a fork in road. One branch is the godly path, “ this is what I do if I wish to remain faithful to God”, and the other one is a path that promises something like wealth, or excitement or glory or love like you’ve seen in the movies or what have you. Most people who lose themselves take this latter path. Then they come to another fork and another fork each time…. they take the wrong direction and before long they find themselves lost.
Oftentimes God will intervene. And people are doing this, will say to themselves, “I got to get back to God!” But other times, they steel themselves against the way of the Lord and after a time, they harden their hearts. And then one when they are completely lost they will say “What the heck happened to my life?” “Who am I?” Their friends and family will say “I don’t know you anymore” They’ve begun to lose their identity.
But Lord still knows who they are. He’s not forgotten. He knows who we were created to be and he has dedicated himself to the cause of helping us to realize it in his Son.
But People say, “I’m just one among millions of people” “Certainly Jesus cares for me cannot be that personal can it?” If you check out this text, you’ll see that Jesus made the 35 mile sailing trip to the Gerasenes met the man and then sailed away. From everything that we see, it was just for this one man that Jesus did this. He came specifically to help this one guy at the tombs.
Others might say “well you know, I’ve done some pretty bad stuff? ” well there’s no place too dark and scary for Jesus either, that become clear in this reading also. This was a purely gentile region of the world. These were people who were hard-bitten; dead-set against God. And think about how scary to be met by some guy naked with demons on his breath breaking chains at will. Jesus was not afraid. There is no place too dark for Jesus to come and help. So no, you are not too far for him to reach. If you are still breathing and you can feel your heartbeat.…. you are not too far. Even if you forget your name you are not too far.
And for you who are baptized, the Lord heard your name at your baptism and has remembered it ever since and would be happy to remind you of it. He heard your name. You received his name. You are one of his children. He wishes to gather his children… to keep them in his grace… to keep you in his Grace. No matter what dark road you may have chosen, Jesus redeems you because of the Road to the cross he walked for you. All of our bad choices, our sins against God were placed on him.
Now the man who was healed wanted to get on the boat and go with Jesus. Here’s the one one place in the Story that didn’t seem right to me. I though Jesus should take the man along and then he could become one of his great disciples. But Jesus had something better in mind. “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And the man did just that. Just think about this. This guy was famous for being the ugly naked guy. The towns people knew him very well. But now the mere presence of him, behaving himself at the coffee shop or chatting with people on the streets was enough to remind them of Jesus. The towns people asked Jesus to leave them…. because they were afraid of him. But Jesus would remain… working through the man who now lived among them.
You wonder why we don’t instantly get taken to heaven once we believe in Jesus? This is why. Jesus cares about all the people on the earth…. he wants them to know that there is a better way. He wants them to see it in you and me. We are not called to put on a show. We are merely to be ourselves. If someone asks us, we should be able to tell them what he has done for us. In these last few years, and especially know in this country, a lot of people are losing themselves and we are called to be those who know who they are. We are called to live among these people and help them see that it is possible to he AMEN