Loneliness.// One of my minor goals today is to not depress you… The bottom line of this message is that there is always hope. /never give up. At the end of this scripture, Luke 8:37-38, there are two responses toward Jesus. You have a choice…. Do you respond like the crowd… or the demon possessed man?
Here’s what leaps out at me: READ Luke 8:29. Some translations use the word of this man “maniac,” a super strength to break chains, not even his guards can be around him, so he’s driven into the wilderness, rejected, out of his mind, “into solitary places.”
I believe demons are real, but I do not like demons, I do not like talking about literal demons, 25 years ago I made a commitment to NEVER have an entire sermon on Satan or Demons, I do not share stories in public about demon possession…. For this message a larger universal truth ~ just as the demon ultimately led to crushing loneliness in this man, out of his mind, naked, no friends, driven to the wilderness ~ the same loneliness is a plague to our society. While I believe there are literal demons, we are also haunted by demons of various kinds ~ abuses, past ugliness, rejection…; we find ways to numb the hurt; when nothing helps loneliness sets in. One person described loneliness this way: “…loneliness is, at its root, a spiritual issue. But often we define loneliness in physical or emotional terms. We think loneliness can be defined by the absence of people whether physically or emotionally. So we think to ourselves, ‘What we need to do to fix our problem of loneliness is to have more people in our lives.’ And when that doesn’t work we think, ‘Well, we need more considerate people in our lives.’ …But that doesn’t complete the picture because loneliness is also the presence of pain….the pain of separation from God and others. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam decided to choose the pleasures of sin, and in doing so, inherited the pain of loneliness.” ~ Paul Matthuis
Here’s a sobering definition of loneliness. “The Loneliest. It’s not the one who’s forgotten by friends or abandoned by relatives, but the one who believes that there’s no purpose in his life.” ~ A Spiritual Issue, the presence of Pain. I believe only Jesus Christ can bring ultimate peace. Only Christ can bring the much needed purpose that we desperately need. The bottom line of this scripture ~ Jesus Christ gives the lonely man Peace and Purpose. That’s where we are headed.
Quick lesson. You have a frustrating person in your life. The gambling is not the problem, the drugs are not the problem, the out of control behavior that makes you want to strangle the person is not the problem. The problem is spiritual. The problem is pain. The need is peace. The need is purpose. When you see out of control people see THEM. A month ago I arrived early at the church a man was asleep on the sidewalk with a shopping cart beside him… I found out his name, Richard. I brought him inside. Sally gave him food.. Over the next few days we as a community did our best to love him, help him…a person needing renewal and purpose…
There is always hope. The good news is that the maniac hit the bottom and is desperate to get his life back. In last week’s scripture, Jesus invites the disciples to get into the boat to cross the sea of Galilee, he falls asleep, a violent storm descends, the disciples panic and can’t bail water out fast enough, they wake Jesus, he calms the storm, and the disciples, still trembling, are confronted with peace. Now they are on the other side, and Jesus calms another storm. He brings peace to a maniac. Maybe you are the maniac? What are your demons?
Jesus is tough on his disciples. You just never know what a day will bring forth when you follow the Lord. You may be challenged by Jesus. A detail you and I would miss that would not be lost on the first readers is the place Jesus took the disciples: “The region of the Gerasenes” is on the other side of the tracks. The disciples have left the comforts of their home in Israel and are now in a Greek area. Foreign soil. When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, there was a rather tense relationship between N.V. and Lynden. Don’t get me wrong, I love the folks here that live in Lynden…, but believe me, when my mother decided to move to Lynden some of us Crouses gulped a bit…the old rivalry is not forgotten… The Region of the Gerasenes is off the radar of the disciples. By casting the demon from the out of control naked man, Jesus is signaling he has come for the whole world, not just Israel.
To get out of the boat and immediately met by a maniac that is out of his mind and demon possessed, the disciples were probably thinking, “I knew it. All gentiles are crazy!” We easily write people off as hopeless... But Jesus sees the lonely man. READ Luke 8:29a. And more amazing. The lonely man sees Jesus…READ Luke 8:28. He knows who Jesus is…he’s not sure how Jesus’ will respond, but he calls him, “son of the most high.”
The lonely man’s home is the wilderness. Think of the wilderness as the season of our lives where God, through our loneliness, prepares us to be broken, so he can rebuild our lives. The maniac has hit the bottom and is ready to be restored. You see the people and you see the maniac and surprisingly it is the maniac that is the one that is ready to be restored by the Son of the most high God! It’s in the wilderness that we learn to walk by faith and not by sight. What will it finally take for you to be completely broken so God can finally do something in you? Until a person has hit the bottom, completely broken, God will not restore. I like the wisdom of one person:
“If you’re lonely, have you ever thought about coming to God and offering it to him as a gift in worship? In saying, ‘I’ve tried everything to fix it, and I can’t. I’ve tried filling it with the world. I’ve tried filling it with people. I’ve tried seeking you. I don’t know what to do with it. So I’m just going to offer it up to you. Can you take this ugly thing and make it something beautiful?’” (Paul Matthuis)
The crazy naked man who calls the cemetery home is asking the Lord to make something beautiful of the mess of his life… sure he begs Jesus to not torture him, not knowing what to ask, but notice how this scripture began in Luke 8:27 “the man with demons came out to meet [Jesus].” A purposeful act to go to the Lord ~ the Crazy man has enough gumption to hear that others go to Jesus and find something amazing, and he says to himself, “why not me? ~ Can you take this ugly thing and make it something beautiful.” Is that a prayer you need to offer God? The Bill Gaither song:
Something beautiful, something good,
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my life
Jesus speaks to the man and addresses the source of his pain. READ Luke 8:30-33. There are many layers of meaning in this scripture. I take it literally. Jesus is Lord over the demons. The disciples cannot miss the reference to the Romans who are occupying the land of Israel at the time: A Legion is a division of the Army of Rome ~ about 6000 soldiers in a Legion. This is something of a prophecy, to cast a Legion of Romans into a herd of pigs ~ from a Jewish world view, pigs are unclean, contaminated. The message is clear that Jesus is more powerful than the Roman Army! They thought Jesus calming the storm the night before was amazing, they thought they had seen it all, but I am thinking this is more amazing. The same question Jesus told them to ponder in the aftermath of the storm is still a relevant question: “where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25). A real question. The townspeople answer the question. The former crazy person answers the question. “Where is your faith?” Jesus can do something about your demons. He can do something about loneliness.
Loneliness, at it’s root, is a spiritual problem. There is pain. The crazy man hit the bottom and went to meet Jesus as he was getting out of the boat. ~ “here I am, naked and crazy and all alone, please don’t torture me” and the very act of going to Jesus is a cry to make something beautiful of the mess.
The townspeople have one response: READ Luke 8:34-37. Where is your faith? One commentator, William Barclay, thinks the reason the townspeople wanted Jesus to go away is because, “They hated having the routine of life disturbed. Life went peacefully on till there arrived this disturbing Jesus; and they hated him. More people hate Jesus because he disturbs them than for any other reason.” (true?) Jesus says your ways have to change. Many folks get used to their demons, patterns, loneliness; the only scarier thing than not changing, is changing. The townspeople rejected Jesus because life was fine. We need a few crazy people around us, don’t we?, or at least crazier than us, to remind us we aren’t so bad. To see the maniac dressed and in his right mind upset the balance. The townspeople rejected Jesus because they knew they would have to change, they would have to give up their own demons… They had not hit the bottom. They are not ready for the salvation of the Lord!
The former crazy man has a different response. First Jesus gives the man peace ~ “sitting at Jesus feet, dressed and in his right mind.” Jesus calmed the storm once again. Loneliness, is a spiritual condition. Loneliness comes with pain. Only God can fill the void. Only God can provide. We need help. We need a savior. We need the one whose name is Christ Jesus. Jesus brings peace to the storm. Jesus also brings purpose.
Understandably, the man with a renewed mind wants to stay with Jesus. At this point he does not understand the universal nature of Jesus. He knows nothing of the death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit. He just knows he wants to be with the life restoring Jesus. READ Luke 8:38-39. Tell others the good news. Testify of what happened to you. When our life is spinning out of control, when we feel helpless and desperate and lonely, how easy to think that if only we could find a measure of peace, to find sanity and stability. We need more ~ we also need purpose. Become an advocate for the Lord so others will discover the same renewing spirit you have discovered. Get outside of yourself and live fore others, to have a purpose larger than your own spiritual health. Peace and Purpose is the antidote for loneliness, and both are centered in Christ.
Loneliness is a plague in our society. If you know the pain and spiritual deprivation of loneliness, dare to approach Jesus like the lonely crazy man, submitting to the Lord for him to bring peace by casting out your demons and give a purpose of becoming the Lord’s ambassador. Just as Jesus calmed the storm, he offers peace and purpose to the lonely. Amen.
(NOTE: one person after the sermon very kindly inquired about the thought that she always understood that the man with the demons had no control, yet the sermon implied that the man did make deliberate decisions to go see Jesus. I am not an expert on demons ~ I am not sure anybody is ~ but she may have a point. To me, the fact that the man went to Jesus shows he had some control of what he was doing. The "study" of demons is not a good idea for most people, Some are called to such a ministry, but for most of us I believe Demons are to remain somewhat of a mystery, and we are to trust in the Lord that he will protect us. So much to say.... I have heard it said many times that other countries have more overt demonic activity, but no question that there are demons active in the U.S. and Western world as well.)