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Oct 23, 2022

Search & Rescue

Passage: Luke 8:22-31

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Christ Connections

Keywords: demons, opposition, conflict, testimony


This message looks at the extent to which Jesus goes to reach out to even the most oppositional and conflicted in life.


 Search & Rescue

Luke 8:22-31

Series:  Christ-Encounters

October 23, 2022

Review:  Last message in this series—Jesus’ encounter with a “partially-convinced” man—the religious man Nicodemus. Jesus wasn’t content to leave him with an incomplete belief about who Jesus was and what needed to happen in his life.  Challenged Nicodemus with his need to be born again by the Holy Spirit, to have a supernatural, new-life giving encounter with God.

Today:  Going to see how Jesus encounters and engages not the partially-convinced but the totally-possessed, the completely-demonized and the utterly-indifferent.  Luke 8:22-31.

22 One day he [Jesus] got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 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. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 

37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

This story occurs in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels (Mt., Mark & Luke).  In Matthew’s account, we’re told that there were 2 demon possessed men that met them upon their arrival.  But Mark and Luke focus only on the one who seems most afflicted and most affected by this encounter.

            The back-story of this particular Christ-encounter begins on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the west side.  According to Mark 4, Jesus had been teaching that day to such a large crowd that he taught from a boat out a little from the shore so more people could see and hear him.  It seems highly likely that He may have taught the crowd for several hours. And if you’ve ever had to teach or preach for several hours running, you know that it leaves you rather tired and ready for a nap.  Which is why I don’t have a problem napping on Sunday afternoons after I’ve preached a couple of messages in the morning! (After all, some of you get your Sunday nap while I’m preaching!) 

            Mark tells us that it was the same day that he told his disciples he wanted to sail to the east side of the Sea of Galilee.  If you were one of his disciples, you may have been thinking, “East side?  Why would you want to go there?  That’s Gentile territory.  They don’t deserve you…and You don’t want to be found by the Jewish paparazzi hanging out with those types.  After all, you’ve been getting enough heat for hanging out with sinners like Matthew’s tax-collecting buddies and being spotted with a questionable women with questionable money-making skills.”   

            While the text doesn’t say all that, I am pretty sure the disciples had to be asking themselves, “WHY on earth are we going there?”  And we have no indication Jesus gave them an answer.  Theirs was to wonder…and row.  His was to request and sleep.  But as we know, there were two men on the other side—two very unsavory, unlikeable, unpleasant, unfriendly, uncontrollable, unkempt, undesirable men who had an appointment with Jesus.  They didn’t know it.  The disciples didn’t know it.  But I’m guessing Jesus did since he had undoubtedly talked with the Father about what He wanted him to do that day. 

            Regardless, the disciples hoisted the sail while Jesus found a quiet spot to take a little nap in the bow.  And then we are told that somewhere along that roughly 12-mile journey, a rather fierce wind came up that produced boat-swamping waves.  Jesus was napping, apparently very soundly.  But the disciples were totally convinced that this was not going to end well.  They weren’t some inexperienced land-lubbers. These seasoned sailors definitely saw something very threatening about this squall…life-threatening, in their opinion. 

APP:  This story isn’t our main concern this morning.  But let me just remind you that it is one of the most important stories to remember about how Jesus takes care of his own when life feels threatening to us.  Whether you’re in what feels like a life-crushing experience right now or whether you haven’t hit that squall yet, FAITH in Christ who is present with us is what will make it survivable and surprising. 

            The thing I want us to ponder here is the storm itself.  Why would this storm come up at this time?  Why would it be so fierce?  Why would it appear to seasoned sailors that it was life-threatening?  And WHERE was it coming from?  I don’t mean which direction.  I mean, by what forces? 

            Life-threatening, life-taking storms are whose work, according to God’s word?  Well, that depends on who is the object of the storm.  Wind is God’s creation.  But when it comes to life-threatening or life-taking wind, it can be either God or Satan. 

  • Satan used wind to kill all of Job’s 10 children. Satan uses wind to attack and harm the righteous. 
  • And God numerous times in Scripture uses wind (or restraining of the wind—Rev. 7:1) to judge the wicked.

While it is possible God sent an angel to stir up this wind, given the context of what Jesus is about to do on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, I think this wind is very possibly demonically generated.  If Satan wasn’t trying to destroy that boat and possibly kill some of the disciples, he was certainly trying to keep them from going to the region of the Gerasenes.  But, as Jesus loves to do with the work of Satan, He turned it into a faith-building exercise for his disciples.  Keep this in mind as we continue to encounter the unseen forces of evil in this story. 

            Well, Jesus calms the storm.  His disciples are completely amazed at his power and authority over nature.  And as they near land that afternoon, they are probably looking forward to being on terra firma and may be thinking about where to grab a late lunch. 

            Now we know that before they set foot on shore, quite a lot has been happening.  There are several farm-hands who are probably watching their boat come in.  They are tending a rather large herd of pigs, about 2,000 in fact! 

Story:  I don’t know how much experience you’ve had with pigs.  Mine has been minimal.  But one of my earliest memories was visiting a pig farm west of Spokane, off I-90, where my parents had taken my favorite childhood pet, a beautiful long-haired collie.  Apparently my dog Laddie, was an alpha male.  He, unfortunately, attacked a neighborhood dog when I was about 4 and did it real damage.  So Laddie had to go, and I was heartbroken. 

            To help ease the pain, my parents took us one fall day out to Laddie’s new farm home.  There I watched in awe as this dog herded a bunch of mean, snarly pigs.  I was warned by my father, who had grown up on a farm in Iowa, not to get in the pen with those pigs.  He didn’t have to convince me! 

            I cannot imagine what 2,000 of these critters could do.  But I can imagine these swine-herders conversing among themselves about the approaching boat full of men.  They know the local crazies who live in the cemetery and among their hills.  I can imagine one of them saying to the other, “Hey, Brutus, pull up a rock.  There’s going to be some live entertainment in a few minutes!”   

            As we’ve read, the disciples no sooner set foot on shore than 2 very imposing, very wild, very dirty, very naked men make a beeline for their boat.  If it were me, I think I’d be pushing off from shore faster than you can say “A crazy at 2 o’clock!”  But since they just got reprimanded for fear and lack of faith, they probably all just lined up…behind Jesus.

            Mark tells us in his Gospel, chapter 5, that not only had this man been living naked in the cemetery for some time;

“No one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.”

Q:  What are the signs, the symptoms here, of demonic oppression?

  • Nakedness
  • Unnatural strength
  • Verbal outbursts
  • Self-harm, specifically self-mutilation, “cutting”.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say, but aren’t these what we are seeing proliferate in our culture today?  Every one of these behaviors I see daily, right here, outside my office window.  And while I’m not saying that every person who engages in cutting or sexting is demon-possessed, I am saying that we are seeing a dramatic and destructive rise in these very behaviors all over our culture. 

  • There is an explosion of young people seeking to do irreversible harm to the bodies God has given them in the transgender movement.
  • “Cutting” one’s own flesh has become the standard response to life’s pain and abuse for many of youth today.
  • Drug addiction has given us a tsunami of people who can no longer control what they say or do with their bodies.
  • ILL: the morning after Thursday prayer that it took 3 policemen to take down a drug-induced man who was forcing his way into our front door…and standing in the middle of 3rd during 7:30 rush-hour traffic. 
  • 80 % of America’s homeless are drug-addicted. Drugs is a clear open door to demonic influence in any person’s life.
  • 60% of our homeless are experiencing mental illness.

I daily wonder, “How many of the homeless I walk by here are demonically afflicted?”

      Friends, there is a level of evil being unleashed in our world today that is clearly demonically induced.  It is accelerating and it is rampant.  Weekly we read of gruesome murders in our cities, of people being pushed in front of oncoming subways, of whole families being murdered, of shootings and stabbings, of rapes and other violent assaults.  We are in a battle with the forces of darkness the likes of which NONE of us have lived through to date.  They are peddling death at every turn.  For example, never before have we seen more people openly demanding that mothers be utterly free to snuff out the life of their own innocent children before birth. 

      We need to learn from Jesus’ encounters with demonically afflicted people…and we need to learn quickly.  We should not be afraid of them, but we must not be naïve about them either.  OUR battle IS against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” (Eph. 6:12).  

      This story is NOT an encouragement to run from or ignore or be afraid of these dark powers. Instead it calls us to bring the presence of Jesus into this growing darkness.  Other pagan cultures have suffered under this darkness for millennium.  As our culture chooses paganism over the Living God, we will need to equip ourselves for more and more direct encounters and battles with the forces of darkness.  It is not a battle we can fight with human solutions or effort.  And it is not something that is a “one-and-done” sort of thing.  What do I mean?

      Notice what the local citizens had already tried doing to restrain and perhaps help this man.  They tried chaining him up, but he would break the chains.  They tried putting him in prison, but he escaped.  They probably tried giving him clothes and perhaps lodging, certainly loving and laudable things to do. None of it was a long-term solution.  What they failed to give him was the transforming power of God. 

Human solutions to problems that are spiritual in nature will ultimately fail…and ALL problems in this world have spiritual roots.

ILL:   I recently read a story about a social worker, Margaret Sangster, who was speaking to a conference of social workers about seeing a small boy in an urban ghetto sitting on the stairs of a tenement building. The youngster had been hit by a car several months before, but his parents, fresh from Appalachia, neglected to get him proper medical attention.

Although not part of her case load, she took the boy to an orthopedist and learned that through an involved series of operations the child’s body could be made normal again. She cut through the bureaucratic red tape, raised the funds, and set the process of cure in motion.

Two years later the boy came to her office. To her astonishment, he walked in without crutches, and to show the completeness of his recovery, he turned a cartwheel for her. The two embraced and when the boy left, Margaret Sangster reported that a warm glow mantled the entire office. She said to herself, “If I never accomplish anything else in my life, at least here is one young man to whom I can point where I have made a real difference!”

At that point she paused in her presentation and asked, “This was all several years ago now. Where do you think that boy is today?” Caught in the emotion of that moment, several made suggestions—a school teacher, a physician, another social worker?

There was a longer pause, and with even deeper emotion Sangster said, “No, he is in the penitentiary for one of the foulest crimes a human being can commit.” Then she said, “I was instrumental in teaching him how to walk again, but there was no one to teach him where to walk.”

APP:  Friends, it is good and right to try and provide housing to the homeless, to try and help people get off drugs, to give mental health support and treatment to those struggling with mental illness. BUT if that is ALL we give them, we will fail and so will they.  This is why the current attitude of our city and culture that denies the astounding success rates of Christ-centered recovery programs and instead calls for secular, non-religious and no-barrier solutions to these problems are wrong.  When ministries like the UGM or Teen Challenge or Dream Center Discipleship Houses are sidelined and millions of dollars are spent on unproven and knowingly inferior programs, we are being fools on a fool’s errand.  Those of you who have experienced the power of Jesus Christ to deliver you from these demonic scourges need to be the ones speaking up at City Council meetings, in office conversations and in private coffee times with friends, telling them that apart from an encounter with Jesus, you would not be where you are today. 

APP:  While I’m addressing the need for us to ‘armor-up’ in this new demonic war, let me give a word of advice.  One of the pastors Sandy and I ministered under in our college and seminary days was a very well-respected author and denominational leader.  He had been through a period of serious depression that had taken him out of ministry and almost taken him out of life. 

      In a book entitled Depression which he co-authored with his spiritual brother and counselor-friend, he tells of an encounter with a demonically-controlled man at a Bible conference not long before his depression began.  He was able to be the instrument of deliverance of this man in a rather striking power-encounter not unlike what happened in our story today.  While that man was delivered that day, our pastor-friend, Don, fell under unexpected depression and nearly lost everything. 

      Here is the lesson:  direct encounters with demons are not the END of the battle.  They may, in fact, just be the beginning.  Whenever we experience spiritual victories over the forces of darkness, we must not think the battle is over.  In most cases, it is simply shifting to a new battlefield…and that battlefield may be someone or something very close to us! 

      This passage clearly teaches that when one person is delivered from demonic oppression, the demons don’t just give up the battle.  They will shift it to different targets.  Destruction and domination will remain their aim.  And we will need to be more vigilant than ever to keep fighting this battle that is not against flesh and blood. 

  • If prayer has brought some victory, more prayer will be needed to maintain that victory.
  • If developing some spiritual practice has helped the power of God invade your life, continuing to develop that practice and probably others will be needed to solidify those gains.

APP:  Here is another observation from this passage.  Demons may be associated with geographic regions.  This “legion” of demons certainly didn’t want to leave the region of the Gerasenes when they were forced to leave this man.  (By the way, a ‘legion’ at the time was anywhere from 2,000-5,000 Roman soldiers.  The name clearly refers to a large group.  And the fact that they chose a herd of 2,000 pigs to invade next would indicate a very large cadre of demons.)

      So what happened to them after they destroyed the pigs?  The passage doesn’t tell us directly.  But it does give a clue.  How did the townspeople respond to the report of the pig-herders?  Did they come to see this man, Jesus, who had rescued the town crazy, so they could thank him?  Did they ask Jesus to stick around a few days so he could help deliver a few other crazies in the neighborhood?  Hardly!  Instead, when they saw this man for the first time in their memory, clothed, in his right mind, sitting (presumably at the feet of Jesus, probably being taught and discipled now), they were afraid of Jesus and of the man he had rescued!  So they asked Jesus to leave! 

      The demons heard and saw all that.  And what do you think the demons probably decided to do?  We know they had already begged not to be thrust out of that region or consigned to the abyss.  I’m pretty sure that those people’s failure to recognize the demonic danger they were in while rejecting the presence of Jesus Christ they needed in their own lives, opened a whole new door of demonic work in that region.  Demons know when people prefer the status-quo of their presence to the revolutionary and redemptive transformation of the presence of God in Jesus Christ. 

      This is why we, followers of Jesus, must NOT be content to see our city leaders choose godless, secular solutions to spiritual problems over proven, powerful encounters with Jesus Christ.  We must stand in City Council meetings and remind them of the proven statistics of success of Christ-centered ministries and the real-life stories of those who have experienced the power of Christ to deliver them.  And we must warn them of the cost of rejecting the spiritual evidence right before their eyes.  They may scoff at us, but we will be serving Satan notice that we are not kicking Jesus out of our region and that we are wise to their tactics. 

      This story ends with one of the most surprising and yet most predictable commands of Jesus.  This transformed man, having just experienced deliverance and now enjoying relationship with God-in-human-flesh, Jesus, pleads with…begs Jesus to let him go with him.  As far as this man is concerned, there is nothing in his hometown that is worth sticking around for and everything in Jesus’ presence that he is longing for.  But Jesus says, “No.”  On the one hand, that surprises me.  Jesus called to so many people to follow him…and they refused.  And here is a man longing to be a close-range follower and Jesus says, “No.” 

      But the reason he says “no” is not surprising at all.  It is totally predictable in one way.  He tells this man, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”  And we are told in Mark 5:20 that he obeyed Jesus “and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”  This chap probably envisioned a very different future from what Jesus had planned for him.  He was hoping to ‘go to seminary’ with Professor Jesus himself.  But Jesus assigned him to go back to the very people who had probably hurt him in the past and had certainly grown indifferent to his suffering. 

Principle:  Wherever we find Jesus transforming someone’s life we find him sending them to tell others about it.  The people who most need to hear and see what Jesus can do are the people who most knew us before Jesus transformed us. 

ILL:  Pastor Bob, his reluctance to attend his high school class reunion this past summer and how God blessed him and them.

ILL:  What spoke most loudly to my brother who was the last member of my family to come to Jesus was the transformation he saw Christ making in my parents’ lives.


  • Have you experienced the transforming presence of Jesus in your life? If so, God’s first assignment is to tell those closest to you about it…and keep telling it to those who may not even know you yet. (Your ‘Decapolis’.)
  • If you haven’t experienced the saving power of Christ in your life, you need to. Don’t try to clean up your life.  Don’t try to get rid of your demons before you come to him.  Just come, messed-up as you are, and ask Him to save you.  Let Him do the work only He can.
  • Let’s decide to follow Jesus’ lead by looking for that one person in the office, on our block, in our school, across our city that needs us to come to them with the transforming power of Jesus. God isn’t always asking us to be involved in some heavy, power-encounter that requires casting out of demons.  But he is inviting us to ‘get in the boat’ with Him, leave the crowd, make the effort despite the opposing storm, and cross the room…or street…or state…or world… to show someone that Christ can change them and deliver them.  It may just take one passing encounter that God uses to rescue them.

ILL:  The famous evangelist John Wesley was once riding his horse, singing a favorite hymn, when a robber accosted him with the words, “Your money or your life.” Wesley obediently emptied his pockets of the few coins he had and then invited the robber to go through his saddlebags, which were filled with books.

The disappointed robber was turning away when Wesley (who had much more presence of mind than I had when I was mugged!) called out, “Stop! I have something more to give you.”

The robber turned back and Wesley said, “My friend, you may live to regret this sort of life you’re living. If you ever do, remember this, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin.’” With that, the robber hurried silently away and the man of God rode along, praying that the word spoken might be fixed in the robber’s conscience.

Years later, at the close of a Sunday evening service, a man stepped forward and asked to speak with Mr. Wesley. Wesley was surprised to learn that this was the man who had robbed him years before. He was now a well-to-do businessman, but, better still, he was now a child of God. God had used the words spoken that night to lead him to Jesus. Taking Wesley’s hand, he humbly kissed it and said with sincere emotion, “To you, dear sir, I owe it all.” “Nay, nay, my friend,” Wesley replied softly, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin.”

            It may just take one passing encounter…and it might be in the most unlikely setting imaginable!