Holiness: New Testament Examples of the Trauma of Holiness. Part Two.

“Why, to redeem us from the threat of trauma, would we invent a God whose character is infinitely more threatening than anything else we fear? I can see humanity inventing a benevolent god or even a bad god who is easily appeased. But would we invent a holy God? Where does that come from? For there is nothing in the universe more terrifying, more threatening to a person’s sense of security and well-being than the holiness of God.” Dr. R. C. Sproul

As we continue our study of holiness, and in this particular instance the trauma holiness causes believers and unbelievers alike, let’s examine one of strangest miracles Jesus ever performed. The account is found in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 8:28-9:1; Mark 5:1-21; Luke 8:26-39).The particular incident involves the people of the Gerasenes, which was approximately 10 km southeast of the Sea of Galilee. Luke’s narrative of the miracle, which occurs immediately after Luke’s account of Jesus calming the storm, is as follows.

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 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. 28 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.” 29 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.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 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. 33 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.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 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. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 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. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “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.”

We’re not sure as the the exact location of this story. What we do know is that soon after Jesus stepped on land a demon possessed man met Him. The text says that he wore no clothes and lived among the tombs of the dead. The significance of the man being naked is that he lived as an animal and not as a rational human being.

While the man spoke to Jesus, it more than likely were the demons who possessed the man who said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” Luke adds a parenthetical statement which says, “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 Jesus asked the demon his name he replied “Legion” because the man was possessed by many demons. A legion could be anywhere from 3,000 up to 6,000 soldiers in the ancient Roman Army.

The text then says, “And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 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. 33 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.

The “abyss” is the underworld, the prison of bound demons. The abyss is also mentioned in 2 Pet. 2:4 and Jude 6). The demons knew that Jesus had the power and authority to send them there if He wished.

Luke then states that, “34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 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. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 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.

Notice that the man is now clothed and in his right mind. He is no longer behaving like an animal. However, the reaction from the people who came upon this now tranquil scene is fear. The main take away from this text, in light of the subject of the trauma of holiness, is that Luke states two times that the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes were afraid of Jesus and were seized with great fear (vs. 35; 37). They were so filled with fear that they asked Jesus to depart from them. This is reminiscent of Simon Peter’s request for Jesus to depart from him because Peter was a sinful man (Luke 5). While it is assumed the demon possessed man would have frightened the people by his behavior, Jesus frightened them even more not only because of what He did, but also because of who He was.

However, the formerly demon possessed man was not afraid. 38 “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “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.” The man acknowledges that Jesus is God. 

A healthy fear of the holiness of God serves the people of God, and others, in good stead. For the believer, such fear provides a needed humility and homage to the LORD. For the unbeliever, it serves to bring them to their knees in repentance before the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

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