Tell the Story

A sermon by Michael Pahl on June 23, 2019, called “Tell the Story.” It is a reflection on the story of Jesus’ healing the Gerasene man tormented by the “Legion” of evil spirits in Luke 8:26-39.

Here is a written excerpt:

Our own personal stories work the same way: they can be powerful, which means they can be liberating. That’s especially so when our individual story is woven into the larger story of the gospel, the good news story of Jesus—just like the man in our Gospel story this morning.

15th century woodcut by an unknown artist

His story is a story of personal deliverance: Jesus has liberated him from evil powers that had dominated and destroyed him. His story is a story of personal healing: Jesus has made him whole again, restoring his dignity, his humanity.

But this man’s story is part of a larger story, the good news story of God’s work in the world through Jesus.

I mentioned earlier that there were three clues in the story that point to a deeper meaning than what’s on the surface. Here’s the third of these clues: the demons that possess the man call themselves “Legion.”

Now, we might think “legion” simply means, “a lot,” as in, “There were a lot of demons in this man!” But for anyone hearing this story back in Jesus’ day, they’d be thinking of the Roman “legion,” the Roman military unit made up of ten cohorts of up to 500 soldiers each.

Add to this that the demons named “Legion” ask to be sent into a herd of swine (unclean animals according to Jewish Law), and then these swine all rush down into the sea (the symbol of chaos in Jewish Scripture), and you’ve got a heap load of symbolism going on here.

Here’s the gist of all this symbolism: the evil spirits that possess this man are a reflection of the deeper powers of evil that plague this world, forces of injustice and greed, violence and domination, of which the Roman Empire and its mighty military was just one example.

In other words, this is not only a story of one man’s deliverance from his own demons. It’s also a story of humanity’s deliverance from all the powers of evil at work in our world.

We can be set free from the cycles of violence that have spun through human history—and through our own lives. We can be set free from the will to dominate that has stamped its image on human societies—and on our own hearts. We can be set free from the selfish greed and fear of the other that has fueled so much of this violence and oppression in our world—and in ourselves.

This simple, good news story of a man healed by Jesus turns out to be a powerful, liberating story for us all.

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