Jesus' Identity: Calming the Storm & Demoniac
Text: Luke 8:22–39
There’s a reason most of us don’t want to know the end of the book or the movie before we begin—we know the experience won’t be the same. We know we won’t cringe at the same parts, we won’t be amazed as much, we won’t wonder at the intriguing plot twist. Undoubtedly, many of you sports fans have hoped no one would tell you about “the game” before you got home and could watch the recorded version. Or if you were a fan of a particular series, like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games, you tried to quickly stay ahead of the crowd so you wouldn’t have the next book (or movie) spoiled.
For many of us Christians, we come to scripture at times with a lackadaisical attitude. We know the ending! God wins, Satan is vanquished. Yes, Jesus had to die, but we take that “plot twist” for granted. Some of us can’t even remember a time we didn’t trust in Jesus, so it is hard to be amazed at the story.
Over the next four weeks we are going to go through Luke, chapters eight and nine. If you are a believer, I want to invite you to come to these sermons with a sense of wonder again! If you are not yet a believer, this is a great section to ponder with us the question before the disciples: “Who then is this?” as they say in our passage. Who is this Jesus?
And much like in our life, much like the trajectory of all of scripture, the answer doesn’t come suddenly. It builds throughout this section of Luke. We are headed somewhere—a reality of who Jesus is. And we would say it this way:
Jesus: The Son of God, come in authority and power to save and empower His people through the cross.
We will continue to unpack this statement as we continue these next several weeks, yet this morning what we see is a Jesus that the disciples weren’t ready for. We see:
Jesus: Come in authority and power.
A Day in the Life of Jesus
It makes me laugh how Luke starts this passage. “One day.” I guarantee you if any of us had this experience with Jesus it would be “that day.” I have several of those types of moments in my life, and if you are over at our house for dinner enough times, you will find out which of “those stories” my kids want me to repeat often. The time you dropped sheet metal on mama’s head. The time the cops came out for you and your friends. God gave me many good sermon illustrations throughout my life.
From a high level, think about what this “one day” in the life of Jesus looked like:
The disciples almost drown as their boat is about to capsize in a storm.
Jesus stops wind and waves with a command.
They step off the boat and a wild man, who cannot even be contained with chains, comes at them.
Jesus stops him with a command and frees him from a legion of demons.
The demons enter a herd of pigs who plummet off the cliff.
The villagers come out and are so scared they send Jesus away.
The man freed of the demons returns to his town and shares about Jesus.
For any of us, this would have qualified for a “that day” moment. But with Jesus, Luke can just say “one day.” This was not that abnormal. We often picture the Bible like a tennis match or professional golf. Quiet anticipation, moments of nice applause, small moments of quick yells But overall, very proper. Yet many moments of Jesus’s life are more like the opening of a Marvel movie. One moment of action to another, non-stop. And what we see in these whirls of action are different attributes of Jesus, and the varied reactions around him. Here, in our passage today, we see Jesus come in authority and power!
Authority & Power
We see Jesus’s authority in this passage in several ways:
First, they are on “the Lake” (8:22), Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:1), or as we would call it, the Sea of Galilee. Now remember, this is no small pond or lake. This is large enough to have tides—much like our Great Lakes. And when a storm comes up, it isn’t a little problem. In fact, the disciples say to Jesus:
“Master, Master, we are perishing!”—Luke 8:24
They are convinced they are all going to die in this storm! And Jesus gets up:
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.”—Luke 8:24
He “rebukes” the wind and waves. He, himself, lays claim to their actions and directs them differently.
When they land, they immediately encounter the man possessed, and Jesus commands the demons to leave:
“‘I beg you, do not torment me.’ For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.”—Luke 8:28–29
This wasn’t just any demon possessed man—no one had been able to even tame him, using chains, let alone help free him from his demon possession. And Jesus simply commands the demons to leave.
And it isn’t just the creation and the demons that he is exerting this authority over. He also exerts it over his people. When he looks at the disciples he says to them on the boat:
“Where is your faith?”—Luke 8:25
And to the man freed from demons he says:
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”—Luke 8:39
In both of these phrases, God is laying claim to their life. In fact, in these passages, Jesus is laying claim to all of creation: the seas, the spirits, his people. Nothing is outside of his authority. Now, on the one hand, this isn’t unique. Crazy people from the beginning of time have proclaimed themselves to have an authority they don’t have. Just the other day on the TV show LivePD we saw a quite inebriated man claiming he was Jesus while he was being arrested by the police. Just because he says it doesn’t make it so.
Yet with Jesus, we see in addition to his claim to authority a power that backs it up! Jesus’s authority comes with real power to oversee what has been given to him and accomplish all he desires. And his power attests to his authority and that he is truly the one placed over all of creation.
At a word the winds and waves calm. There is no great struggle, no wrestling. He commands, they stop. At a word the demoniac throws himself to the ground and submits to the authoritative words of Jesus, and the demons leave the man to enter the pigs only at Jesus’s direction and permission. Jesus claims not only authority but also demonstrates power over his creation and his created beings.
This makes for an interesting situation when we look at the responses of those he comes in contact with—both the demons and the people (the disciples, the villagers, the man possessed). There is one commonality when they come face-to-face with this kind of authority and power: fear.
“And they [the disciples] were afraid, and they marveled,”
“When he [the demon possessed man] saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him”
“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.”
Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.
And this fear across these groups manifests itself in similar, yet very different, ways. Each group comes to Jesus.
The disciples turn to Jesus when the waves and wind overpower the boat.
The demon possessed man runs to Jesus and throws himself at his feet.
The villagers run to Jesus and then try to run him away.
The man free from demons comes to Jesus.
And each group essentially begs Jesus.
The disciples beg Jesus for help: “Master, Master, we are perishing.”
The demons beg Jesus for leniency: “I beg you, do not torment me.”
The people beg him to leave: “All the people…asked him to depart from them.”
The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him.
This paints a picture for us this morning where I want to ask you two simple questions, Table Rock:
Do you fear Jesus, and
What does that fear look like?
The Fear of the Demons
The reality is we should fear Jesus. The question is, “what does that fear look like?” We start with the demons, who have a fear no one in this room should yet have. The demons stood in the very presence of God, in his radiance and glory, and they chose to rebel. They live now in a time when they know they have been defeated; they are just waiting for the final decisive moment that ends their wait.
This is the fear behind the demons as they run toward Jesus. They run and throw themselves at his feet because they know exactly who he is. Unlike the rest of the people in scripture, these demons know who they are dealing with and echo what the disciples are going to find out:
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”—Luke 8:28
While the rest are still figuring this out, the demons acknowledge Jesus is indeed the Son of God Most High. And they run to him and throw themselves down and beg him. They beg him for a temporary reprieve from the ultimate, horrible ending—being thrown into the abyss.
Even if you aren’t yet in the same predicament as the demons, you could end up there. If you do not love Jesus and accept him as your Lord and savior, this is the type of fear you will have when you stand before him. A fear that looks for a way out, not a way to love him. You do not want to end up here, because this fear is the fear of a creation who meets its creator and knows they have no hope of reconciliation.
The Fear of the Villagers
The heart of fear that leads to this type of problem doesn’t necessarily start right there. In fact, it often looks like the fear the villagers had. They come face-to-face with the reality of who Jesus is, and they become “very afraid.” This Jesus is not someone they can control. He threatens to change too much—the man who was always possessed is healed. He cares more for this man than he does for their livelihood in a herd of pigs. This Jesus is not someone they embrace, but rather, usher away.
This is the saddest of the fears we see this morning because it is preventable. They do not have to approach Jesus this way. When this life ends our choice is made, and we will approach our Lord with either the fear of the demons or the loving fear of the man freed from the demons. Here, if the villagers had loved what Jesus loved, they would have loved him, but as it is, they ask him to leave. And he does.
If you have been fearful of the power and authority of Jesus in your life, I beg you this morning, don’t push him away. He may just honor your request and leave you alone. Instead, look this morning to the disciples and the man freed from demons to see another path.
The Fear of the Disciples
These last two groups create an interesting choice. I imagine if I had asked most Christians prior to this sermon which person in this passage they related to most, they would have chosen the disciples. We have a bent to see ourselves in the disciple’s experience, because we know it so well. It was largely our path to the same faith in one way or another. Yet, I would argue the disciples best represent another group here at Table Rock this morning.
If you are here and seeking Jesus, trying to understand who he is, then I pray you have a fear like the disciples. When the disciples see Jesus perform his miracle on the Sea it says:
“And they were afraid, and they marveled”—Luke 8:25
Literally this says, “fearing they marveled.” Their fear was not one of imminent punishment. Their fear was not one that pushed Jesus away. Rather, their fear saw in Jesus the very hand of God almighty, and they marveled at what they saw. Yes, they had a healthy fear of Jesus—very God of very God come in power and authority—but they marveled. Why? Because he was for them! Jesus had proven again and again that he loved his disciples. He had called them and was lovingly teaching them all about himself. Yet they hadn’t fully experienced who he was in their life. He was still a puzzle, an enigma.
If you are here this morning and you find yourself seeking Jesus, I pray you find in yourself this kind of fear. One that trembles at Jesus revealing himself in power in your life, but marvels at the fact that he loves you and has taken your sin upon himself. If this is where you are this morning, Jesus does have an authoritative command for you:
“Where is your faith?”—Luke 8:25
Just like the disciples, he asks you, where is your faith? God is calling you. Yes, his power and authority mean much will change, but it will be marvelous! If this is where you are this morning, why not give your entire life to Jesus. Turn this morning to one of your friends, come talk to one of our pastors, we would love to pray with you as you have a marveling fear that comes back to Jesus as your Lord and Savior!
The Fear of the Man Freed
This morning, Christian, you actually have an experience much more like the demoniac. No, you literally didn’t have demons cast out of you! At least none of you have told me that part of your story yet. But you no longer have watched Jesus’s power and authority from the outside—you have experienced it! You were a sinner, and you are now a son or daughter. You were lost and dead in your sin, now you are found in the mercy and grace of your savior. Even worse than being possessed by a demon, you had a heart of stone that you could not change on your own, and Jesus came in and rescued you even from yourself.
You, Christian, have the same marveling fear as the disciples, but you don’t stand afar. You now sit, like the man freed, at the feet of your Lord, and you rest in his great work.
There are two realities in your life now, Christian. First, you should desire to be with Jesus. Just like the man, you should be begging Jesus that you can be with him! That isn’t a death wish, but a realization that your life and joy will be most fully realized when you are with Jesus. And, if that isn’t his will for you today (it isn’t as of this exact second if you are hearing me!) then Jesus has an authoritative command to you as well. Just like the freed man he says to you:
“Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.”—Luke 8:39
As long as God has you here, Christian, you have one purpose—to make known the amazing grace you have received from God in Jesus Christ.
When we come face-to-face with the Lord Jesus come in authority and power, we should have fear. And the type of fear is dictated by the relationship we have with him. Table Rock, love that Jesus’s authority and power mean that he is marvelous. He is God himself, and he is on mission with all authority and all power.
This message would be incredibly scary if we didn’t complete the story this morning. God on mission in authority and power would always be scary if he wasn’t for you. But he is! And we see that through the cross!