I think it is fair to say that there are some passages of scripture and some Bible verses that many people find easy to connect to. This may be because the truth and message expressed in them seem straightforward, or perhaps because they resonate with our own experiences. There are some verses and passages that often provide inspiration for hymns or worship songs or perhaps for poetry or art. I wonder what you would say your favourite portions of the scriptures are….
Other passages however are a little trickier or perhaps feel more distant or less in line with our own experiences. Perhaps our gospel reading, Luke 8:26-39, is one of these.
When we come to a passage in scripture that is harder to apply to our lives there are lots of things that can help us. Firstly, it is good to pause and pray to ask God to inspire us by His Spirit and speak to us through the Word and as we read to see what we notice. I wonder what caught your attention. Secondly, it can also help to see what is presented to us in the passages around the reading itself.
Thirdly, it can be really helpful to notice where in the Bible the passage is. Our passage today is from the gospel of Luke. The gospels present to us the ‘Good News’ of Jesus. It can be helpful to ask ourselves what the good news is that we see in the passage – for those who were there, for the world more widely and of course for ourselves and our communities. It can also be good to look for where we see the kingdom of God being revealed or breaking through.
There are of course many other ways to help us approach and explore the scriptures, but this approach is one I often use myself.
As we have already mentioned we are in the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 8. Just before our passage we see the incredible moment when Jesus is on the lake with his disciples and they wake him up in fear and he calms the storm. Then comes our passage. Immediately afterwards we see Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and then healing the women who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years.
Luke is showing us who Jesus is, that he is the one who has been sent, that he is God with them. Throughout the gospel that question ‘Who is Jesus?’ is answered. In the calming of the storm we see Jesus even having power over nature, in the healings that follow our passage we see him raise a girl from the dead, showing his power over death itself and see that he extends his healing to an unclean women who would have been ignored and an outcast due to her condition.
Our passage adds to the picture. We are in the land of the Gentiles, a place where Jesus is yet to heal anyone, when Jesus arrives and is met by the man who is possessed by unclean spirits. It is clear that although he is ‘from the city’ he is unable to function and lives away from everyone in the tombs, not wearing clothes. It is a distressing picture and he finds himself separated from family and society.
We do believe in good and evil and that the spiritual forces of both are very real. There are times when folks find themselves experiencing troubling things that feel like they are spiritual, but is important to remember that the forces of good and evil are not equals. Sharing any troubling experiences with someone who is a mature Christian, perhaps a minister and praying together is a good place to start.
Anyway, it is interesting to see that the demons recognise Jesus as the Son of the Most High God. We could spend more time that we have exploring why the spirits were sent into the pigs and the implications of this for all concerned, but for now lets allow our focus to rest on Jesus and the man. The demons were cast out and the people came and found the man sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. It is a beautiful picture. All of that torment has gone. He wants to follow Jesus, but he tells him to return home and to tell everyone what God has done for him. He returned to the city, to the place and people that he was so cruelly separated from and now is able to continue his life proclaiming all that has happened.
So what is the good news? This time we see Jesus’ authority over evil. Remember the Lord’s prayer? ‘Deliver us from evil,’ or ‘Deliver us from the evil one.’ We are praying that to a God who can. With this also taking place in Gentile territory it is a sign of what is to come, that the good news is not just for the Jews, but is so much wider. We see more in the next chapter of Luke when the 72 are sent out.
What does the Kingdom of God look like? From this passage it looks like freedom, restoration, being freed to be our true selves. It looks like a God who knows our deepest needs and come towards us when others step away. There are many situations and challenges that we all face that can leave us less that all that God would have us be. Our worth is not in what we can do, but in who God has made us to be. The man was able to return and simply praise God. As God works in our lives, in big and small ways, we are able to give him the glory in a way that allows others to see his work.
There is so much more that we could explore, but I hope you have caught sight a little of who our God is and that that gives you cause to praise today.
- What is the good news that you want to hold on to today?
- What is your story to tell about God’s faithfulness that you can share with others?
- Who can you pray for today who may be experiencing suffering, limitations on being their true self or darkness? Perhaps take a moment to pray for them now.