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 cant 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 Satans 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
Isolation. The man is all alone in his suffering. Such is Satans 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
But, and this is the point of the passage, in Gods 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 hells court cowers in Christs presence! Demons bow before him, solicit
him, and obey him. They cant even lease a pig without his permission. Then how do we
explain Satans 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" dont deserve the distinction.
When she was six months old, they sexually sacrificed Natalie on hells 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 didnt 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 didnt 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 heavens 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.