To the Abyss?
Tuesday of Pentecost 5
21 June 2016
See the enormity of Christ's compassion! He refuses to destroy in the process of saving. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sends the unclean spirits into the hogs rooting among the tombs on the hillside (Lk 8:26-39) instead of into the abyss (Rev 20:2). He will not consign them to the abyss before their time, even these who are condemned to it. And yet in the mad and frenzied wickedness characteristic of the demons, they possess the hogs, ironically driving them into the very abyss of the sea.

As in this Gospel, Jesus will not leave the world in the graveyard of death. He who died, dies only to give life to the world. He will spare no cost. What is one life worth to Jesus? It is worth every drop of his precious blood poured out. It is worth accepting an unjust judgment against a perfect and holy life. It is worth agonizing hours of torment, ridicule, and finally His Father's condemnation in the place of sinners. It is worth crying out at the end, "It is finished!" It is worth being laid in the rich man's grave in death. It is worth a descent into hell where He can mock Satan's grip of death as destroyed. It is worth His going to His Father that He might prepare a place for us. It is worth His going to every son of Satan and seeking to rescue him from the abyss.

When He does this everything is changed! Here in the Gospel, after Jesus has freed the man from his demonic oppressors, there is absolutely no more mention of the demons. The man is instantly sitting at the feet of Jesus. Those who have been freed from death and Satan's slavery desperately desire to be near to the Lord that they might be instructed in His ways. This saved disciple sits at the feet of the Master there hanging on every word; repeating it in the catechetical echo. Jesus teach me! I'll say Your Word back to you. This is exactly what the church is doing in her catechetical practice of teaching and repeating God's Word to one another, including hymns, Psalms and spiritual songs.

Sometimes parents think that catechetical instruction for their children is like jail; something to be endured like a sentence in prison until the child has sat through enough. Then he needs to be released, given his certificate, and confirmed. This is exactly the opposite of the expectation that we see here in Luke's story. Catechesis is the result of being freed from death and its prison. It is the consequence of being freed from Satan's kingdom. It is joyously sitting at the feet of the Master hanging on every word.

In an even greater irony, only the demons in this event understand who Jesus is and proclaim it out loud. When He displays His power of the demonic, the people of the region of the Gerasenes can only be afraid and beg Jesus to leave their community. Those whom He comes to save cannot rightly name Him, except the man whom he rescued from Legion, and He tells all that Jesus had done for Him. Who He is becomes known by what He had done for us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Tertullian

 "Come now, when in one man alone you discover a multitude of demons calling itself Legion (Lk 8:30), of course comprised of spirits, you should learn that Christ also must be understood to be an exterminator of spiritual foes, who wields spiritual arms and fights in spiritual strife. It was none other than He, who now had to contend with even a legion of demons. Therefore it is of such a war as this that the Psalm may evidently have spoken: 'The Lord is strong, The Lord is mighty in battle' (Ps 24:8). For with the last enemy death did He fight, and through the trophy of the cross He triumphed.

"Now of what God did the Legion testify that Jesus was the Son (Lk 8:28)? No doubt, of that God whose torments and abyss (Lk 8:31 and see Rev 20:2 where the Greek word is "abyss") they knew and dreaded.... The demons really knew none other than the Christ as their God. They do not ask of a strange god, what they recollected they must beg of the Creator-not to be plunged into the Creator's abyss. They at last had their request granted (Lk 8:32-33)."

Tertullian
The Five Books Against Marcion, 4.20
Luke 8:26-39

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 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. 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." 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.) Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion," for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 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. 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.

When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 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. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 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. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, "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. (ESV)
Prayer
O God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things as surpass our understanding.  Cast out all sins and evil desires from us, and pour into our hearts Your Holy Spirit to guide us into all blessedness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Janell Janhsen, who is gravely ill, that the Lord would grant her courage and true spiritual strength and that those who serve her needs would be upheld in every good work

For William Crofford, that the Lord would grant him strength and confidence in God's mercy in the midst of weakness

For caregivers who help and support those who are suffering, that they might find the vigor to provide for their needs
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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