Input sound file: Audio 09 23 2018.mp3
we are looking at what Jesus is telling us to do through Matthew chapter eight. So let’s review just a moment here. The chapter begins with a man with leprosy who has the courage to come close to Jesus and say, “Lord if you will, if you want to, if you choose to, you can make me clean.” He shows his face by that statement. Here’s what he’s saying, “Lord, Jesus is Lord over my illness.” And that faith is enough to release the power of God and he’s cleansed. The Centurian in the next story comes and asks for help with a Jewish servant who is very ill and near death. And Jesus says, “Okay. I will come with you. The Centurian says, “No. You don’t have to do that. I’m a military officer. I give my soldiers an order and it’s done. I give my servant an order and it’s done. You are Lord. All you have to do is give the order and it will be done.” Jesus marvels and says, “I’ve not met a Jewish person with faith like this.” Jesus says to him, “Be adone according to your faith.” And the scripture says, “His servant began to recover immediately in that hour.” Because the Centurian’s faith said, “Jesus is Lord.”
The next scripture talks about how when Jesus is Lord that means He has a priority and then there are two examples that are like lessons to help us to understand. The first one we talked about last week. There’s a terrible storm but Jesus is Lord over the storms that come into your life. Jesus says to the disciples when they wake Him up, “Why were you so afraid?” And he stills the storm [inaudible]. There’s a beautiful song. Sometimes He stills the storm. Sometimes He stills the storm that’s inside of us. He brings peace to our anxiety. He stills His child. But Jesus’ Lord over any storm that comes upon us. I always check the weather forecast first thing in the morning. I don’t think any storms are coming today. But I know that sooner or later one will come and I will need to have faith. But Jesus is Lord over any storm that comes into my life. And today we come to another lesson and that’s a lesson about the enemy. I’m 63 years old. I want to say to you that I did not have an enemy in the world until I was 43. And then another person decided that they would do their very best to destroy my life. I was not able to deal with this. There’s a big difference between a storm and an enemy. You see the storm just happens. But an enemy is a malevolent intelligence that seeks to shape events in order to harm someone. The goal is always control, and oftentimes the primary power than an enemy has over us is fear. As President Roosevelt said so many years ago, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Now we have a tendency to want to think that a storm is an enemy, but a storm is a process of nature. It’s hot air and cold air colliding in a certain way, it happens the same way every time. There is no intelligence that makes it go over your house and blow your roof off. You may be engaged in an ongoing war with dandelions in your front yard, but there is no evil intelligence that tells the dandelions to grow in a certain way to make you miserable. See a storm just happens, but sometimes there is evil at work. One of the old jokes says the first time’s the coincidence, the second time could be a coincidence, but anything that happens three times, that’s enemy action. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not because again if there’s weeds growing in your field that’s not the enemy, that’s just weeds. If you have a cold, there’s a virus growing in your blood. That’s not an enemy, it’s just weeds to some degree. Honestly, even though we’re very fearful of illnesses like cancer, cancer cells are like weeds. They’re not smart, they don’t know how to cause us harm, they’re just lazy and breeding and doing things that harm us. But there’s not an evil intelligence that is directing them.
It is a reality that in the Bible the people that Jesus ministered to believed in such a thing as an evil intelligence seeking to control us. Nowadays we call it the devil, back then they called it demons. They called it demonic oppression because this evil force would seek to control someone and to bring suffering and sorrow into their lives and into the lives of other people. But the enemy works in the dark and one of the reasons we’re afraid is we can’t see what they’re doing. Some of the forms of oppression that we have today include alcoholism and drug addiction that bring out the worst in people to where we become our own enemies and our own intelligence works against us to try to find a way to continue doing that habit that’s destroying our lives and get away with it. But nonetheless, in the Bible, they speak of a malevolent, evil intelligence. And we do ourselves a disservice when we try to explain that or spiritualize it or do away with it. When we try to call it simply mental illness because it doesn’t act like mental illness mental illness, again, like a cold, is not intelligent, but sometimes evil seems to have great intelligence. But Jesus is Lord over all evil intelligence. Jesus is Lord over the devil and all the works of the devil. Jesus is Lord over every sort of demon and every sort of demonic oppression. Jesus is Lord over every sin and every addiction that imprisons people. Jesus is Lord, and He is the way out of the darkness. Started out right from the beginning, Luke 4:18, “Here I am,” Jesus says. He’s in the synagogue in Capernaum and He’s handed the scroll and he opens it up and He reads this scripture from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” That’s his ministry. He says, “This scripture is fulfilled today in Me.” But that’s not all He says. He goes on to say this, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives. He has sent me to help the blind recover their sight. He has sent me to set in liberty– to set free– the oppressed.” Because Jesus is Lord over everyone and every situation where people are imprisoned by evil force. Jesus is Lord over the bars that imprison us. Here’s the scripture. Matthew 8:28, “When He came to the other side, crossing the River Jordan to the eastern shore. When He came to the other side to the country of the Gadarenes.” Now on the western shore is Samaria. On the eastern shore is what’s known as the Decapolis. Decapolis means 10 towns. There are ten towns which are not Jewish towns. When you look at the map, you can tell. Jewish people live in towns with Jewish names. Greeks and Roman people live in towns with Greek and Roman names. And there are 10 cities on this eastern area, on the eastern shore of the Jordan River. It was the other way to go from Galilee down to Jerusalem. The country of the Gadarenes. Gadaran is one of these cities. Gerasa, the land of the Gerasenes is another one of these cities. So, it’s in that area. When He came to the other side, two demoniacs, two individuals who are controlled by evil forces. Two demoniacs met him coming out of the tombs. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Verse 29, “And behold, they cried out, ‘What have you to do with us of Son of God? Have you come here to torment us? To cause us to suffer before the time of judgment?'” Now, when you look at those words, you find out something about demonic oppression. It is full of fear. The minute they see Jesus, “‘Have you come here to torture us?'” Demonic oppression is
full of fear. [inaudible]. Verse 31. Now, a herd of many swine– Mark 5 says 2,000 pigs. That’s a big herd. Now a herd of many swine was feeding in some distance from them. And the demons begged Him. They begged Jesus because they were afraid of Jesus. “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” Verse 32. And He said to them, “Go.” Now, I have no idea why Jesus did this. Why do you make a deal with the devil? Why do you make an arrangement with these demons? Maybe they have to go somewhere. Maybe it’s better for them to go into pigs than into other people. I don’t know. Nobody knows. But what we do know in verse 32, Jesus had the power. Jesus was Lord over this situation. Jesus was Lord over the forces of evil. Jesus said, “Go,” and they went.
So they came out and went into the swine. And behold, the whole herd, 2,000 pigs, rushed out to the sea bank into the Sea of Galilee and perished in the waters. 2,000 pigs. I hate to tell you friends, but I’m a city boy. I don’t really know a thing about pigs except that bacon is good. There are experts on pork in the area that could help me. I put on Facebook last night, I said, “Hey, 2,000 pigs will die in the sermon today.” And I hope nobody thought we were going to actually kill 2,000 pigs here. But I said, “How much were these pigs worth in today’s terms? How much were these pigs worth?” If you go to the USDA agricultural report, whatever, from Friday, it would seem to say that the caucus price, whatever that is – I assume that’s after they’ve been killed – it’s $60 a pig. The live price – I assume that means, not killed – is $44 a pig. But there’s other material that says that it costs a lot more. And maybe this is the whole processing and butchering and various other things. But if you look at a grand champion pig at a county fair, suppose I’ve got pictures, it’s like $900 for the pig and then maybe another $400 for the butchering.
Now, I don’t think these 2,000 pigs were all grand champions. But if they were, that’s a $1.8-million-blow to the local economy. If they were just at $44 per pig live price, it’s $88,000 in our money today. That’s not a small amount. Sometime after the sermon before I go out to Wesley and embarrass myself, I think there’s a farmer here who is going to educate me and I’ll know which one’s accurate. Because I honestly don’t. But with this act, I have to tell you the pork producers were just a little bit upset. You can see them in the picture. There’s the one who’s next to Jesus, “What’s going on with our pigs?” There’s the guy up on the top of the hill, “What going on? These are not happy people. 2000 pigs rushed down the hill into the water and drowned. Oh by the way, why did the pigs do that? Because they were afraid. Do you remember? What comes when evil forces come is fear. And maddened by fear, they reacted in the way an animal will when they are afraid. They tried to run away. Fear is the power that evil forces use. Verse 33, Matthew 8, herdsmen fled, going in the city, they told everything and what had happened to the demoniacs? What had happened to the demoniacs? They were much better. But 2000 pigs died. Verse 34. “And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus.” Now every other time you read about this in the scripture, they all come up to meet him, and they bring the sick, and they bring everyone who needs help, including people who are oppressed by evil forces. And Jesus feels them all. These people have a very different idea. They all came out, and they pleaded with him to leave their neighborhood. “Oh Jesus, will you take this ministry of helping people somewhere else?” Because when you think about it, apparently they’d rather have the 2000 pigs than have the two men be well. Why would they do that? Because they were afraid. Here’s the way Luke puts it. “Then people went out to see what had happened and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone.” What were the results? He was sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. In other words, he was set free and he was healed and made whole. And this wonderful thing – isn’t this odd – this wonderful thing made them very, very afraid. Evil forces use fear to accomplish their [goal?]. And those who had seen it, told them, the crowd, how he who had been possessed with demons was healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him, Jesus, to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So He got into the boat and returned. Now you can imagine the man who is now well, the men who are now well – there’s two men in Matthew and there’s one man in Luke. The people who are well might not want to hang around with people who’d rather have him suffer and still have their pigs. So it makes perfect sense that the man from whom the demon is gone would beg Jesus that he might go with him. Because Jesus feels safe. Jesus cares about me. It’s because of Jesus that I’m set free. If the prison was one of alcoholism, I can imagine the man would think, “You know, if I stay close to Jesus I’ll be able to stay sober I’m afraid to not be with Jesus because wellness and safety comes from him. But here’s what Jesus does instead; Verse 39: Return to your home and prove by the way you live every single day that your life has been changed. Show them – show them by your life – and declare– show them by your words, declare how much God has done for you. And as this man does this day by day, week by year, year by year, he will be proof that Jesus does good. And his reminding them of what Jesus does will take their fear, and calm.
And he does just that. He went away proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. And so, even though Jesus wasn’t there, because he lived in plain sight because he spoke of it whenever he had an opportunity, Jesus continued to work in the lives of the people even after he left. As it says in 1 John 4:4: Greater is he that is in you then he that is in the world.
And so I want to remind you, Jesus is Lord over your greatest fears. Jesus is Lord over what brings you the greatest terror. Jesus will shine a light in the darkness and sometimes you will see that your fears are misplaced. That the problem is not as bad as you thought. Jesus will shine a light into your darkness and you will see, I may not be able to do everything but I can do this little thing and it’ll make the light shine just a little brighter. It’ll cause the jail doors to come open just a little wider. Because sometimes we all need to be set free from what holds us in and holds us back. We need to be set free from enemy action because greater is He that is in you than anything that is in the world that might seek to be your enemy in this life. Jesus is Lord over all the works of the men. Charles Wesley put it this way: There are people who are in a prison that is one of the soul. Sometimes it’s a prison of the mind, sometimes it’s a prison of the emotions. I don’t know what the bars are made out of, it’s all kinds of different things. Sometimes it’s a prison of addiction. Sometimes it’s a literal prison. But Jesus sets people free. And this is a part of the gospel. As Charles Wesley put it, He breaks the power of canceled sin. Sin was canceled on the cross, but it still sometimes has its way in our lives. But He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, the next time we’re consumed by our fears, the next time that terror begins to take us over – we wake up in the night and we can’t go to sleep, our mind restlessly tries to think of ways to solve our problems – remind us, Lord Jesus, that you are Lord over our problems. That you are Lord over all that confines us and imprisons us. You are Lord over anything and anyone that makes us a victim. You are Lord over any enemy, spiritual and otherwise, that would imprison us. You are Lord over all the works of the devil. And so Lord, we pray that we would hear this lesson from this chapter of how we find faith by allowing Jesus to be Lord. That you would help us to live this lesson just like the man did after Jesus went away. To understand and to tell others how Jesus sets us free. And Lord, I pray that you would work in the lives of your people that we would be free indeed. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Friends, the grace we have is an amazing
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.