A Saved Person
June 25, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
The Man Possessed By The Legion
1. In today's scripture recitation, a man takes the stage. He lived in a cemetery. In Japan's case, I think it would be hard for [somebody] to live in a cemetery. Just the moving of tombstones alone would be awful, and it is generally not wide [enough] inside. Since Palestinian tombs were mainly caves on the sides of hills, if someone wanted to try to live [there], they could. Though, by design, cemeteries are not places where human beings make their lives. Such places are the world of death where people and their friends do not have lively interactions or living relationships.
2. What might have driven him into the cemetery? It says it was "an unclean spirit, a foul spirit, a demon." This man is described as "a person possessed by an unclean spirit." Later the name of that foul spirit appears in the text. It is "Legion." "Legion" originally referred to a division in the Roman army. I'm told that a division had six thousand soldiers in it. Actually, many foul spirits, equaling to about an army division, were controlling him and were dragging him about. Being like that, therefore, he soon came to the point of not being able to live with other people. As we'll see later, he does have a home. He's also got a family. However, he got to the point where he could not live with his family and so he ended up becoming a dweller of the cemetery.
3. Thus, it seems that the locals had tried to keep in chains this man possessed by the legion such as he was. They were not [about to] deal face to face with him as a human being but had tried to restrict his freedom of movement. This is what anybody would have thought: When someone is causing problems, the only way to solve it is by restricting [the person's] freedom of movement. But, since he broke [his] shackles and tore apart [his] chains, no one could rob [him] of his freedom of movement. On the one hand, [though] he tore the chains to pieces, say as you might that he was free by doing that, yet he was not free by any means. Because his inner side was being ruled by the legion [of demons]. Even though he was not bound by chains, he was not free.
4. This [whole thing] is painful. Being bound by chains is painful, but worse than that is to be unable to do as one wishes, even when one is not bound by chains. That's why he was crying out with pain. The scripture says, "Both day and night he was always crying out, he was always striking himself with stones," (verse five). He himself could not let himself be, he couldn't follow his own will. Therefore, he hit himself with a stone. He was punishing himself.
5. How are we to look at him? From a medical perspective, it would be easy to hand down a diagnosis of an illness. From such a perspective, we might either see [this story] "as having nothing to do with me," or the opposite, "as having something to do with me." But why was the story of this man written in the Bible, [why] is it being read out loud and heard over and over during public worship services? Isn't it because generations of people have seen their own personages in the person of this man?
6. [I'm] sure there's nobody here [in this service] who's living in a cemetery. However, it is possible that we too might be living from day to day as though we're in a graveyard. [Just because] a person is alive doesn't mean one has life as a living soul. Life as a human being is really where there is interactivity, relationships, and fellowship with others. It is with a relationship with God and relationships with other people. When a person loves, [he or she] is alive in the truest sense. Therefore, the Bible says, "Anyone who does not love is like one who has remained in death," (First John 3:14). Whenever a person remains in hatred and stays as if dead, even though surrounded by a great crowd of people and bustling with activity, and though one might certainly look like one exists within human society, that person is in a cemetery. The figure of this person, who is dwelling in a cemetery, has everything in the world to do with us by that definition.
7. As I've touched upon earlier, it was the foul spirits who have driven him into the cemetery. It was the legion [of demons]. You may crack a smile, saying, "Did you say, 'Foul spirits? A devil?' How utterly foolish to talk like that in these modern times!" But, whether we call it a devil or something else, isn't it true though that relationships between one person and another are actually being broken apart by [some kind of] power that goes beyond human control, by impulses and urges of some kind which work within human beings like this? It does happen upon numerous occasions that relationships of love, [once] filled with life, are lost; the places where one would suppose that people would live together just as they truly are become like cemeteries. As a matter of fact, it even happens that by [some] power which [can] only be called the devil, all nations from our fellow humankind will murder each other. It actually happened back then and still does now. And this experience of something like being exposed internally within ourselves to a legion -- a division of six thousand soldiers, is not [something] that is unrelated to us.
8. In a sense, we do know quite well that people are exactly like that. So, [people] seek solutions in shackles and chains. They seek solutions in restricting freedom of movement. Of course, in this day and age, [we] don't actually use shackles, [we] don't actually put [people] in chains. Instead of chains and shackles we utilize a number of rules and harsh penalties. In a society of law as problems come up because of freedom, [people] are always thinking, no matter the time period, of how the problem will go away. Even in this time period, that kind of point is heard often.
9. But, when you curtail freedom of movement, does it turn out to be a solution? Not really. When a power greater than that is at work within, chains will simply be torn apart. No, actually, even when the chains are not torn apart, things on the inside stay the same with the problem left undone.
10. We understand this when we consider the man named Paul. He used to live in a society of law, so full of these chains like that, loaded down with handcuffs and leg irons. But, this Paul would cry out as follows: "I do not understand what I am doing; because I cannot put into practice what I desire to do, but instead I am doing that which I abhor," (Romans 7:15). "I know that within me, that is, within my flesh, good does not dwell. For, I have a will to want to do good, but I cannot put it into practice," (Romans 7:18). "As 'the inward man' I rejoice over the law of God, but I understand that as there is another law in my physical body and it attacks the law of my heart, and it brings me into the captivity of the law of sin which is in my physical body, what a wretched person I am! From this body set in sin, who will save me?," (Romans 7:22-24).
11. The more one is bound by chains, the stronger the impulses and the urges that penetrate up from within. An unclean spirit actively begins to work out. Even though outwardly it may look like it is tamed and serious minded, the soul is crying out, "What a wretched person I am! Will anyone ever save me?" Then one day, all of a sudden, [you] tear the chains apart, or you do something like this guy did and [you] beat yourself up. You hate yourself thinking like that and you don't [want to] allow it, and so you start to punish yourself. You start hurting yourself.
12. A person is not saved by chains. A person is not saved by the law. How ever much one may beat oneself up, a person is not saved by doing that. What a person needs is the One who will free him or her from the unclean spirit. [Such a person has need of] an encounter with this One, [the Liberator].
Being Freed Through Jesus Christ
13. Today's passage of scripture is about how that this One, Jesus Christ, had crossed the wild and stormy lake and had come for a visit to where this man was. To say "the shore on the other side of the lake" means "this side of the lake" when seen from the view of the Gadarenes. His having come to this side of the lake was an act that came totally out of the will of Jesus. Jesus made the proposal, saying, "Let's cross over to the opposite side," (verse thirty-five). In this way then, the action was initiated by Jesus.
14. Thus, this man had come out of the cemetery and ran up to Jesus after he had crossed over to "the opposite side of the lake." In verse six the scripture says, "When he saw Jesus from afar, he came running to him and bowed down." His posture and figure relate to us his mind of how sincere he was. He wanted [Jesus] to help him. He wanted [Jesus] to save him. He knew he couldn't do a thing about the shackles and the chains. He knew he couldn't do anything on his own power.
15. However, another voice was raised within him, split and quarrelling within him. That voice cried out, "Son of the most high God, Jesus. For mercy's sake, Pay us no mind. We don't want you to hurt us." It was the voice of the unclean spirit. It was a voice saying, "Leave me alone; let me be." When Jesus Christ is about to intervene in our lives, it is a mystery how that these two kinds of thoughts split and quarrel, yet this kind of thing truly does happen. We just want to do something, anything, to ourselves. We want to do something to [our] wretched worlds of reality. We want [someone] to help us. We want [someone] to save us. But then another thought also comes up. We want [someone] to let us stay exactly the way we are. We want [someone] to let us be and leave us alone. And we say, "Pay us no mind. Don't hurt us."
16. But, he stayed with Jesus. Jesus also continued in his dealings face to face with this man. What's more, it wasn't as enemies but as friends, allies! Jesus told [the foul spirit], "O unclean spirit, come out of him!" Persistently he stood on the side of this man and fought with the defiled spirit for him. And, he came face to face with the realities that this man was dealing with. That's what it means where it says that he inquires after its name, [asking] the spirit that had him under its control. The people had only been seeing the troublesome behaviors of this man. But, Jesus was willing to find out what was controlling this person and whatever it was that was within him.
17. Then, Jesus finally set him free from the legion. That event is described as follows. "The unclean spirits requested from Jesus, 'Send us into the pigs and let us ride away.' As Jesus permitted it, the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. Whereupon, a herd of pigs of as many as two thousand heads went down the cliff and rushed into the lake, and one by one they each drowned in the lake," (verses twelve and thirteen).
18. A large herd of pigs rushed into the lake. It was a grieving and pathetic cry from the drowning pigs. [I wonder] how this Gadarene man was seeing and thinking about this gruesome and ghastly spectacle? "What a dreadful thing it was, this power that used to control me! This thing that was in me, what kind of power was it that caused such dreadfulness?" He must have thought about it again [later].
19. Then, Jesus spoke to this man set free from the unclean spirit like this, "Go back to your own home. And let your family and friends know everything that the Lord has done for you and that he has shown mercy to you," (verse nineteen). He, who was now set free from the unclean spirits which had broken apart his relationships with other people and had driven him into the cemetery, did return back into those relationships with others once again. The cemetery was no longer his dwelling place. He even went back into those broken relationships with his family. Perhaps that may have been preposterously hard to do. But, he went back. So that he [could] tell them of the Lord's mercy!
20. As I've already made mention, generations of people have seen their own likenesses and figures in this man of the Gadarenes. And in the figure of Jesus they have seen the Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead and is alive right now. This Jesus who had said at that time, "Let's cross over to the opposite bank," and this Jesus who did cross to the opposite bank and went up to the man from the country of the Gadarenes, he has come to "this side" where we are. From where Jesus was, he has come and entered into our lives. Wouldn't you agree? The fact that we are sitting in this place of worship right now like this and the fact that we are hearing the gospel means [that Jesus has come into our lives].
21. The church is not a place that provides shackles and chains to just give guidance for daily living, to impose religious laws, and to suppress behaviors. The chains that humans provide serve no use. The church is the place where we run to Jesus, who has crossed over to our side. Like the man from the land of the Gadarenes [did]. [He] said, "O Lord, have mercy on me." Therefore, we have hope. We no longer need to do battle with others. We don't need to do battle with ourselves, helpless as we are to do anything [anyway]; [we don't need to] break, grieve, beat ourselves, hurt ourselves, [or] live inflicting pain on ourselves all the time. Jesus has come for us. The kingdom of God has come near. In order to set us free, to pull us out from the cemeteries, to send us into relationships of life, he sincerely comes face to face [with our worlds] with us and he continues in his dealings with us and for us.