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Getting the Hell Out: Tormented People
A sermon based on Luke 8:26-39
Reprinted from Max Lucado, Next Door Savior (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), pp. 57-61.

Wiry, clumpy hair. A beard to the chest, ribboned with blood. Furtive eyes, darting in all directions, refusing to fix. Naked. No sandals to protect feet from the rocks of the ground or clothing to protect skin from the rocks of his hand. He beats himself with stones. Bruises blotch his skin like ink stains. Open sores and gashes attract flies.

His home is a limestone mausoleum, a graveyard of Galilean shoreline caves cut out of the cliffs. Apparently he feels more secure among the dead than then living. Which pleases the living. He baffles them. See the cracked shackles on his legs and broken chains on his wrists? They can’t control the guy. Nothing holds him. How do you manage chaos? Travelers skirt the area out of fear. The villagers were left with a problem, and we are left with a picture-a picture of the work of Satan.
How else do we explain our bizarre behavior? The violent rages of a father. The secret binges of a mother. The sudden rebellion of a teenager. Maxed out credit cards, Internet pornography. Satan does not sit still. A glimpse of the wild man reveals Satan’s goal for you and me.

Self-imposed pain. The demoniac used rocks. We are more sophisticated; we use drugs, sex, work, violence, and food. (Hell makes us hurt ourselves.)

Obsession with death and darkness. Even unchained, the wild man loitered among the dead. Evil feels at home there. Communing with the deceased, sacrificing the living, a morbid fascination with death and dying-this is not the work of God.

Endless restlessness. The man on the eastern shore screamed day and night. Satan begets raging frenzy. "The evil spirit . . . wanders . . . ," Jesus says, "looking for rest."

Isolation. The man is all alone in his suffering. Such is Satan’s plan. "The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour." Fellowship foils his work.

And Jesus? Jesus wrecks his work. Christ steps out of the boat with both pistols blasting. "Come out of the man, unclean spirit!"

No chitchat. No niceties. No salutations. Demons deserve no tolerance. They throw themselves at the feet and mercy of Christ. The leader of the horde begs for the others:


What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the most High God?

I adjure you by God, do not torment me." . . .

Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

He replied, "My name is Legion,; for we are many."

He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

Legion is a Roman military term. A Roman legion involved six thousand soldiers. To envision that many demons inhabiting this man is frightening but not unrealistic. What bats are to a cave, demons are to hell-too many to number.

The demons are not only numerous, they are equipped. A legion is a battalion in arms. Satan and his friends come to fight. Hence, we are urged to "take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm." Well we should, for they are organized. "We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world."

But, and this is the point of the passage, in God’s presence, the devil is a wimp. Satan is to God what a mosquito is to an atomic bomb.


Now a large her of swing was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, "Send us to the swine, that we may enter them." And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.

How hell’s court cowers in Christ’s presence! Demons bow before him, solicit him, and obey him. They can’t even lease a pig without his permission. Then how do we explain Satan’s influence?

Natalie must have asked that question a thousand times. In the list of characters for a modern-day Gerasenes story, her name is near the top. She was raised in a tormented world.

The community suspected nothing. Her parents cast a friendly façade. Each Sunday they paraded Natalie and her sisters down the church aisle. Her father served as an elder. Her mom played the organ. The congregation respected them. Natalie despised them. To this day she refuses to call her parents "Mom" and "Dad." A "warlock" and "witch" don’t deserve the distinction.

When she was six months old, they sexually sacrificed Natalie on hell’s altar, tagging her as a sex object to be exploited by men in any place, anytime. Cultists bipolarized her world: dressing her in white for Sunday service and, hours later stripping her at the coven. If she didn’t scream or vomit during the attack, Natalie was rewarded with an ice-cream cone. Only by "crawling down deep" inside herself could she survive.

Natalie miraculously escaped the cult but not the memories. Well into her adult years, she wore six pairs of underpants as a wall of protection. Dresses created vulnerability; she avoided them. She hated being a woman; she hated seeing men; she hated being alive. Only God could know the legion of terrors that dogged her. But God did know.

Hidden within the swampland of her soul was an untouched island. Small but safe. Built, she believes, by her heavenly Father during the hours the little girl sat on a church pew. Words of his love, hymns of her mercy-they left their mark. She learned to retreat to this island and pray. God heard her prayers. Counselors came. Hope began to offset horror. Her faith increasingly outweighed her fears. The healing process was lengthy and tedious but victorious, culminating in her marriage to a godly man.

Her deliverance didn’t include cliffs and pigs, but, make no mistake, she was delivered. And we are reminded. Satan can disturb us, but he cannot defeat us. The head of the serpent is crushed.

. . . The punch line of the passage is Jesus’ power over Satan. One word from Christ, and the demons are swimming with the swine, and the wild man is "clothed and in his right mind." Just one command! No séance needed. No hocus-pocus. No chants were heard or candles lit. Hell is an anthill against heaven’s steamroller. Jesus "commands . . . evil spirits, and they obey him." The snake in the ditch and Lucifer in the pit-both have met their match.

And, yet, both stir up dust long after their defeat. For that reason though confident, we are still careful. For a toothless ol’ varmint, Satan sure has some bite! He spooks our work, disrupts our activities, and leaves us thinking twice about where we step. Which we need to do. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Alertness is needed. Panic is not. The serpent still wiggles and intimidates, but he has no poison. He is defeated, and he knows it! "He knows his time is short."

"Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world." Believe it. Trust the work of your Savior. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." In the meantime, the best he can do is squirm. Amen.