Faith, fear and freedom

Audio Player

In the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke is full of encounters between Jesus and people from very diverse walks of life. Today, we focus on Luke 8.26-39, which tells the story of a demon-possessed man, his encounter with Jesus, and the remarkable transformation that takes place. It's a story of faith, fear, and ultimately, the freedom that Jesus offers to all who come to Him.

It’s worth saying right away that no doubt here tonight will be some who doubt the existence of unseen spiritual beings and powers – maybe seeing them as unscientific and irrational. Let me just put it out there that the Bible describes a universe in which there are powers seen and unseen. It also describes Jesus as the Lord of all creation, seen and unseen, who is able to set us free from the powers of darkness and to bring us into His Kingdom of light. Others will of you will need no convincing, even if you feel unable to articulate what you know for fear of being made to feel that you are weird, crazy or silly. Perhaps your experiences of this unseen side of life have left you fearful. This part of God’s word shows that Jesus has total authority over all the spiritual forces of darkness. With him, you have nothing to fear. Let’s reading the passage. Luke starts by setting the scene (Luke 8.26-27):

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.

Jesus has been with his disciples on the lake, and the night before he had calmed the storm that they had been caught in. So while they sailed together, it’s not surprising that the terrified disciples decided to stay in the boat when it arrived, leaving Jesus to step into an utterly desperate scene. The Gerasene man (who has no name) is possessed by demons. He has been reduced to a state of misery and isolated and marginalized from society. He lived among the tombs, a place of death and despair. This man was not merely suffering; he was under the control of evil spiritual forces that had utterly dehumanized him. Their objective: to distort and destroy the divine image of God in humans. Sin too had taken its toll, as it does on all of us in different ways. And in this encounter with Jesus, we see the extent to which sin can lead us if left unchecked. It may appear in various forms - attitudes, habits, addictions, or more. It causes chaos, and can strip us of our dignity, our sanity, and our hope. That’s the context. Let’s see what happens when he encounters Jesus. We see is the nature of faith (Luke 8.28-29):

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.)

When the man met Jesus, what he said showed a form of faith, even if it is a fearful one. He cried out and fell down before Jesus, acknowledging Him as the Son of the Most High God. He sees enough to realise that Jesus is not just one powerful god (with a little ‘g’) amongst many but that he is distinct. He is the one God (with a capital ‘G’) who is over all other powers and authorities. This man's faith, although mixed with fear, was a critical starting point for what happened next. And, do you see that faith doesn't have to be perfect or without doubts? Sometimes, all it takes is a glimmer of faith to set in motion a life-transforming encounter with Jesus. He had nothing to fear. Jesus had not come to torment him, even though that is what is deserved by those who, as our first Bible reading put it walk in ways that are not good (Isaiah 65.2). In fact, Jesus had come to set him free! Luke 4.18-19 Just a few chapters earlier Jesus has set out his mission like this:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because he has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captivesand recovering of sight to the blind,to set at liberty those who are oppressed,to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

Jesus would do this by taking on himself the punishments and torment that our sins deserved when he died on the cross. The man couldn’t see all of that just that yet, but he fell before Jesus and begged for mercy. This is the nature of faith. Next we see: Freedom in Christ (Luke 8.30-33):

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 were drowned.

In the midst of the man’s blend of faith and fear, Jesus confronts the legion of demons that tormented the man. When Jesus asks the man's name, he replies; Legion. That’s a Roman army word: meaning a force of thousands of soldiers, indicating that many demons possessed him - another glimpse of the relentless power and profound extent of this situation. It looks like there’s going to be a huge battle, but this ‘battle’ is a huge anti-climax. The night before, Jesus had silenced a storm with his word, and now, again, with a simple word, these evil spirits were driven out by Jesus and permitted to enter a herd of pigs. Only God could do this. The pigs, in their frenzy, rushed into the sea and drowned. It's a dramatic and powerful display of Jesus' authority over evil spirits and of the forces of darkness. What they did to the pigs, was what they were aiming to do to the man.

This moment is a vivid demonstration that Jesus has the power to set us free from the grip of sin, addiction, and darkness. When Jesus takes control, the oppressive forces in our lives can be cast out. Just as the man's life was liberated from the bondage of demons, so can we experience true freedom when we surrender to Christ. Luke 8.34-35:

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.

The story continues with the remarkable transformation of the formerly demon-possessed man. He was found sitting at the feet of Jesus, fully clothed, and in his right mind. No longer bound with chains and shackles, now dressed with clothes from Jesus or perhaps one of the disciples back in the boat. This transformation is a beautiful picture of the power of Christ to restore and renew broken lives. The freedom Jesus offers goes beyond deliverance; it includes the restoration of our humanity and dignity. It's not merely an escape from sin, but also a return to our true identity as children of God, created in His image. But there is twist that you may not have seen coming. And that is The Grip of Fear. Luke 8.36-37:

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.

Just as the disciples had been terrified by both the storm and Jesus’ calming of it on the way over to the Gerasenes, those who witnessed the miraculous transformation of the demon-possessed man were overcome by fear. Jesus had just sorted out the biggest problem in their land – and they ask him to leave. Why? Because of fear. Fear of the unknown, the fear of change, and even the fear of economic loss, as the swine herders lost their livelihood when the pigs rushed into the sea. 2000 pigs is a lot of bacon.

Meeting Jesus brings change. Sometimes profound change. To our plans and ambitions and dreams. But the people's fear, in this case, led them to make an astonishing request: they asked Jesus to leave their region. When they ask Jesus to leave, he does so without any objection; Jesus’ ministry will not be imposed on those unwilling to receive it. If you continue to reject Jesus, he will honour your decision. Here is where fear can be an obstacle to faith. When fear becomes the prevailing force in our lives, it can lead us to push Jesus away rather than drawing closer to Him. And still today we can fear what following Jesus may cost us, how it may disrupt our comfortable lives. But what they held onto could not even begin to compare with that Jesus could bring them. And they could not see that they too needed the same help the man did. The restored man however is no longer fearful of Jesus. Luke 8.38-39:

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.

This is how total his transformation is. He wants to be with Jesus. Surprisingly, Jesus sends him on his way. Jesus isn’t rejecting him – but this is the next stage of his total healing. And he has a job for him! He was created to relate to others and so the man who had been a social outcast: naked, isolated, unable to relate to others is sent back home, set free to be truly human. On the one hand we value rugged individualism but we all know the loneliness of fractured communities and broken relationships. Jesus brings not just forgiveness and healing but puts us back into the family of the church. And what God has done for him in Jesus is not unique. He was to share the good news with others, and that is where we come in.

Luke wants us to see that we, too, can experience the transforming power of Jesus. When we come to Him with our brokenness, our sin, and our struggles, He has the ability to set us free. No matter how deep we've descended into the darkness of sin or despair, there is hope in Christ. We only need to have faith, even if it's as small as a mustard seed, and surrender to Him. And if you want to hear of how God is still doing this today, then can I encourage you to join us our Celebrate Recovery Celebration Evening that we are running on Monday 13th November. It is a great opportunity to hear stories of the difference Jesus has made to those who are part of our Celebrate Recovery group. They too had reached a point of desperation and turned to Jesus for help. So that is the account of the encounter of Jesus and the demon possessed man. But to end, let me draw out a few more lessons for us:

1. Reality of Spiritual Warfare

This is rather obvious really, but this passage reminds us of the reality of spiritual warfare. While we might not encounter demon-possessed individuals every day, or see evil in such a tangible way, the battle between good and evil is ongoing. We must be vigilant, recognizing that we have an enemy who seeks to destroy and distort the image of God in us. It's essential to hold firm by faith to Jesus and rely on His power to overcome. And we need to remember that Jesus is not just a tribal ‘god with a little g’. He is God. Capital G. The Lord of all Creation. There is no contest really. We have nothing to fear.

2. The Hope of Freedom

The story of the Gerasene man is a story of hope. Keep in your memory this man with no name, who was once tormented and marginalized beyond imagination, now seated at Jesus' feet, clothed, and in his right mind and set free to be a powerful witness to the change that Christ brought into his life.

It should remind you, whenever you need it, that no one is beyond the reach of God's grace and transformation. No matter what you've been through or how far you've strayed, Jesus offers a path to freedom. There is no depth of sin or suffering that Christ cannot overcome. He can heal, restore, and make us new. His power is limitless, and His ability to transform lives is awe-inspiring.

3. Our Witness

Jesus was asked to leave the Gerasene community. And he went. But he did not leave them without the gospel. Jesus had a job for the man he had just saved – to speak about what Jesus has done for him to his community. Just as the man in the story became a witness to the power of Jesus, so we are called to be witnesses to His amazing work in our lives. If you believe in Jesus then why not start by being baptised if you’ve not taken that step yet–there is an opportunity to do that in three weeks’ time. Speak to me if you’d like to chat more.

You may not feel you have a story as spectacular or dramatic as the man who was demon possessed and set free. But our stories of redemption and freedom through Jesus can inspire others to step beyond the fear and towards Jesus in faith seek their own deliverance. Sharing our faith is an essential part of our Christian journey. The forces of evil still seek to destroy lives in our world, and Jesus is still the only hope for anyone in this world – will you tell others of the freedom that comes through faith in Jesus Christ?

Finally, is the danger of fear. Fear can be a powerful hindrance to our faith and freedom. The Gerasenes' fear led them to miss a profound encounter with Jesus. In our lives, fear can show up in various ways, holding us back from experiencing the freedom the Jesus offers. Is that you? If so, would you think again? Can you see how amazing Jesus is? You can trust him with your fears. There is no way to follow him without cost. He will turn upside down every part of your life in due course. But none of that will every come close to outweighing the incredible freedom and restoration that Jesus will bring into your life.

The Gerasene people chose swine over salvation. Don’t be like them. Instead, be like the man with no name, who, saw enough of who Jesus was to take the first small faltering steps in his direction. Jesus did the rest. You don’t need to wait till all your doubts and worried have gone. Just step towards him, ask for forgiveness, healing, salvation, in faith and see what he can do. There is no better time than today to experience the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. I have prayed that he would give you the courage to confront your fears and trust in him. Maybe the next step for you would be to meet up with someone to chat more. Or maybe you would join the next Hope Explored group? Or maybe you’re ready, even now to turn to him and ask for his help. We’re going to talk to God now. I’m going to simply pray line by line and give you time to either echo my prayer silently or pray something that reflects here you’re at:

Dear Jesus, I have heard the story of the Gerasene man and how he encountered you, and found freedom. I recognize that I have struggles and fears that I need your help to overcome. I believe that you are the Son of the Most High God, the one true God who has power over all forces, seen and unseen. I may have fears and doubts, but I want to choose faith over fear. Help me to trust you. I acknowledge that I have sinned and need your forgiveness. I understand that you came to set me free and took on the punishment for my sins on the cross. I want to be set free and to experience the new life you offer. So please forgive me, change me, and lead me. I want to follow you as my Saviour and Lord. And just as the man from the story was sent to declare how much you had done for him, I want to be a witness to your amazing work in my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

If this is the first time you’ve prayed this prayer, please know that God hears and answers such prayers and you’ve begun a relationship with God and your journey of faith. I’d like to give you a copy of this book that goes over what Jesus has done for you. Please take one and when you’re ready let someone know so they can help you grow in your relationship with God. We’re going to respond in song now. Let’s stand.

Back to top