Power and Authority
Luke 8:22 – 56
Power and Authority
The massive power of nature
Some of you will have seen in the headlines last weekend that the Bulk Ore Carrier Stellar Daisy was lost at sea somewhere off the coast of Uruguay.
She was an enormous ship, 322 metres long, that’s over a thousand feet, she was carrying 260 thousand tonnes of iron ore,
And she was crewed by 24 men, 22 of whom, are missing, presumed lost.
It is suspected that the vessel suffered a cracked hull, and that she sank almost instantly.
So with that kind of tragedy fresh in the headlines, this week of all weeks, we can have some understanding of the very real danger they were facing.
We’ve seen that a storm can send a ship a third of a kilometre long, to the bottom of the ocean in minutes.
Jesus has power and authority over nature (v 22 – 25)
Lake Galilee sits at 200 metres below sea level. It’s the second lowest lake in the world, and so it’s susceptible to these rapid weather changes as warm and cold air move down the mountains, and all that stuff we learnt about in geography at school.
It gets so bad that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
Now, these fishermen would have experienced this kind of thing before, but clearly this incident was bad enough to make them fear for their lives, Master, Master, we’re going to drown!
But this moment that seems to signal the end for the disciples, is of no concern to Jesus. He’s happily sleeping until they wake him up.
Verse 24, He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters;
the storm subsided, and all was calm.
And then, Where is your faith?
You know how you can make a statement with a question?
So, “Who left these dirty dishes on the kitchen bench?” Maybe you’ve asked a question like that at some point in your life!
It’s a question, but it’s also a way of making a statement. “Who left these dirty dishes on the kitchen bench?” means “There are dirty dishes in my way and I want someone to move them!”
Did you know that’s what that was code for? Some free marriage enrichment here at TMB!
It’s a question that also makes a statement.
Where is your faith? says, “You should have trusted in me.”
Jesus is saying, “you needn’t have been afraid.”
You didn’t need to fear for your life because I’m right here present with you.
Of course, it makes us reflect on our faith, doesn’t it?
What would Jesus say about our faith?
Not that we can expect to be delivered from every physical danger like Jesus said the disciples should have expected, because, even for them, it was temporary. While Jesus was physically with them, inaugurating the kingdom of God through his preaching and ministry, nothing was going to happen to them which would get in the way of that.
Of course, later on, all of them would face real physical danger.
The historians think that out of the 12, probably only John lived to a ripe old age, the others were all martyred because of the message of the gospel they carried.
Faith in Jesus doesn’t mean nothing bad can happen to you.
In fact I wonder if part of the reason that Luke has included this episode in his careful history of Jesus, is because he wants us to ask ourselves if our faith in Jesus is up to the challenge of persevering in difficult times.
And the key variable about faith is not how deep it is,
Or how strongly you hold it,
Or how much you have, but the object of your faith;, who or what is your faith in.
The response: A question of identity (v 25)
End of verse 25, somewhat unsurprisingly, In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Some of you know that I’ve had a couple of moments in my life, in aircraft, where I’ve not been entirely sure I’m going to get out alive!
Nearly 20 years ago, I was flying to the US, and we encountered turbulence so bad that the overhead lockers were popping open and luggage was dropping on people, and the cabin crew were yelling at anyone who was out of their seat, just to lie down in the aisles and hang on!
Obviously the storm passed, after several weeks! At least that’s what it felt like, but can you imagine, what would have happened, if 30,000 feet over the Pacific, I had stood up, and rebuked the wind, telling the storm to stop?
I think 2 things would have happened. Outside the plane;, nothing at all,
And inside the plane, I imagine I would have then spent the rest of the flight restrained in flexi-cuffs!
And if that seems like a fair enough response if I tried to calm the storm, spare a thought for Jesus’ disciples, because not only does Jesus say that,
But what he demands actually happens!
How would you respond to that?
And in the Old Testament, it was pretty clear who exercised power and authority over the winds and the water
It was God!
Yahweh, the creator God, who controlled the winds,
Yahweh who could quiet the waters.
So just one example of many, Psalm 89
You, Yahweh, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
9 You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
“Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him
This too, is a question that makes a statement.
Since Jesus can do this, it says something about his identity.
What they’ve just witnessed makes a massive statement about Jesus’ identity.
That’s why they ask in fear and amazement.
We might think that since the storm has passed, there’d be no need for fear!
I have another near death story, as it happens from another family holiday when I was a teenager!
Perhaps I should stop taking holidays!
But we were on a boat in Thailand, and we got caught in weather so bad that waves were breaking over the top of the boat, and we all had to go up on to the top deck and put on our life jackets.
But again, we survived, and when we got back to shore, as people got off the ferry, they bent down and kissed the ground! So pleased were they to be on dry ground.
At that moment when everyone stood on the jetty, there was no more fear.
That had passed. Nobody still thought they were going to die that day.
The fear and amazement of the disciples, is not fear at the storm, but fear of being in the presence of the one spoken about in the Psalms,
They are face to face with God Almighty.
Luke doesn’t leave it there, though, does he?
The demonstration of Jesus’ power and authority escalates.
Jesus has power and authority over evil (v 26 – 39)
Jesus has power and authority also over evil.
So the boat journey across the lake continues, no doubt with the disciples staring wide-eyed at each other, and maybe even pulling out their Gideons New Testament and Psalms to check, yes, what we just saw really is the work of God!
But they arrive at the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee
Notice the double geographic reference.
This is where we are,
This is where we’re not.
We’re in Gentile territory, We’re not in Jewish territory anymore.
But no sooner has Jesus got his feet on the beach, than he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town
And the description is, almost in-human, isn’t it?
Living among the dead,
Chained hand and foot,
Kept under guard, .
Out in the solitary places
It’s a picture of broken humanity.
This is not how life was meant to be.
He doesn’t look like someone made in God’s image, the pinnacle of all creation.
And the reason for this is because he is possessed by demons.
Now, storms, we’re familiar with!
Sickness and death which come up in the next section, we know about them, but demon possession is probably not something that we’re too familiar with, so let me say three things.
Firstly, probably most of us have no difficulty accepting that there is real, personal evil in the world, and if there is a spiritual realm, this sort of stuff is a possibility.
Second thing, is that the picture of spiritual opposition in the gospel accounts is much more active than what we tend to see, but if Jesus really is God’s king come to establish God’s kingdom, and bring an end to sin and evil, then wouldn’t we expect a massive upswing in opposition from the forces of evil that are about to get obliterated?
Wouldn’t we expect Jesus to come up against this kind of spiritual activity, as he begins the work of bringing about God’s eternal kingdom?
This is the last chance these spirits think they have.
They’re going to make as much noise,
And wreak as much havoc,
And spoil as much of God’s good creation as they can.
It seems entirely natural that Jesus would see a lot more of this than we do.
And thirdly, it would be a mistake to say “Well today we just understand that this is all illness, which can be cured by medicine.
Remember Luke, our historian is a doctor! And right in this chapter, he distinguishes between sickness, and demon possession, as does Jesus!
It’s a particular type of cultural arrogance, to think that we understand what happened back then, much better than those who were actually there!
So let’s come back to the story.
Look at verse 28, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man.
There’s a recognition of Jesus’ authority, falling at his feet. He knows the answer to the disciples’ question, Who is this?
Neil Marten was a long-serving and popular member of the British parliament from the 50s through to the 80s, and he used to like telling the story of a time when he took a group of constituents from his electorate through the Palace of Westminster.
And at one point the group suddenly came across Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, fully kitted out in all the paraphernalia of that high office,
And Hailsham saw Neil Marten and greeted his friend with a booming voice, “Neil!”
And instantly all of Marten’s constituents dropped to their knees, kneeling before him!
It’s a bit like that here! Almost an involuntary recognition.
The demons know exactly who Jesus is.
They know he has authority over them.
They are powerful, yes, and they are many, but they are compelled to acknowledge Jesus’ authority.
A legion was originally a Roman military unit made up of a thousand soldiers. Probably the term is not being used literally here, but the point is, there were many demons.
So we might be tempted to think that if ever there was going to be a close fight between Jesus and the forces of evil, that this would be it.
Sometimes Christians talk as if that’s always how the battle between Jesus and the spiritual forces of evil works. Like come kind of closely matched fight that could go either way.
But look what happens when Jesus meets an uncountable number of powerful demons.
They beg Jesus, not to do to them what they’re absolutely convinced he’s able to.
Back in February, when Anthony Mundine and Danny Green faced off at the Adelaide Oval, imagine the surprise if Mundine had climbed into the ring, and fallen down at Danny Green’s feet, and begged for mercy!
It would be a dead giveaway, of a massive power imbalance, wouldn’t it?
Which is what happens here.
3 times, verse 28, verse 31, verse 32, the demons beg Jesus, initially not to send them to the abyss, the ultimate and eternal destination of the devil and his evil forces, and then finally, they beg to be allowed into the pigs.
33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
This is the point where preachers are obligated to make a joke about devilled ham! But I will refrain.
And besides, it’s pretty serious, isn’t it? Little wonder that the people looking after the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside,
Some of us, will find this hard to take.
Doesn’t Jesus care about animals?
What about the people who owned the pigs?
Why couldn’t Jesus have just banished the demons without letting them go into the pigs?
Well, Luke doesn’t give us the answers to those questions, does he?
But obviously Jesus thinks it’s better that the pigs are lost and the man saved. I mean, even the most ardent pig lover would find it hard to argue that the pigs should have been saved, rather than the man.
And maybe the community is better off anyway, now that the man isn’t violent and out of control, maybe that’s worth the cost of the pigs.
But our questions aren’t answered, because Luke’s priority is to show the absolute power and authority that Jesus has over evil, even the massed forces of evil, that have been so destructive,
Up until this point.
But also, remember the double geography lesson in the opening verse?
We’re outside of Israel,
We’re among the people of the world,
People like us.
The good news of Jesus is not just good news for the Jews. All of humanity benefits from the message of the kingdom of God that Jesus brings.
The response: a statement of identity (v 34 – 39)
Well it’s a remarkable transformation, the man is soon sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind and the people were afraid verse 39
Just like in the first episode, it might seem to us that the reason to be afraid has passed! The crazy man who’s possessed by multiple evil spirits, is no longer a danger!
Even the possessed pig herd is gone.
Why is fear the response here?
Well they knew all too clearly the power and might of these evil spirits.
And they’ve just been utterly obliterated by Jesus.
Jesus has power and might far greater than anything they’ve ever encountered before.
Verse 37, Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with, fear. So he got into the boat and left.
Jesus can be uncomfortable.
Knowing who Jesus is and what he can do, can be disturbing.
It’s easier just to go on my way, and do everything I can to keep Jesus at arm’s length, so I don’t have to consider uncomfortable questions like, “Where would Jesus’ power need to be exercised in my life?
How have I allowed the pattern for life that God intended to be shattered and broken like we see here?
What evil or selfishness in my life would Jesus oppose?
If you know that Jesus hates evil, then coming close to Jesus can be uncomfortable,
If you know that Jesus acts with the authority of God himself against evil, then coming close to Jesus can be a frightening prospect.
But look at this man!
This is what an encounter with Jesus does!
The life-spoiling effects of sin and evil being undone,
He comes to know the life for which he was created.
Here’s someone who understands exactly the impact that Jesus can have!
And he wants as much of it as he can get, doesn’t he?
He begged to go with Jesus, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
Jesus thinks those who understand and have benefitted from what he offers, have a responsibility to tell others how much God has done for them.
And if Jesus charges this man with that responsibility, then I’m pretty sure that he expects the same for those of us today who also understand how much God has done for us.
But notice also, Jesus denies the man’s request.
He wanted to go with Jesus. Jesus says know.
I don’t think any of us like it when God’s answer to us is “no.”
But here we see in saying “no” Jesus had something better planned.
And I’m sure you noticed the little twist that Luke gives us.
Jesus said, “Don’t come with me, but go and tell how much God has done for you.”,
the man went away and told, how much Jesus had done for him.
This man understands exactly what’s going on!
In Jesus, he has seen God at work.
He’s been commissioned to speak about God.
He tells everyone he meets about Jesus.
In his mind, the question of identity is settled, isn’t it?
What a pity it would be if our understanding, didn’t live up to his.
Jesus has power and authority over sickness (v 42 – 48)
So Luke keeps layering up the picture of who Jesus is and his power and authority. He gives us 2 snapshots, kind of squashed together into one.
So notice verse 40, geography again.
We’re back on the other side of the lake,
Back in the land of the Jews, and synagogues.
But, skipping over Jairus for a moment, we meet this woman.
She had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her
Most likely this is some kind of uterine haemorrhage. It’s been long lasting, 12 years, and is beyond any human or natural intervention.
In Matthew’s gospel he adds She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
While Luke, a doctor, omits that detail!
But the point is still the same.
Of course in this situation, this illness also has social and economic implications.
She was considered ceremonially unclean.
She can’t be among the gathered people of God,
She can’t go into the temple to encounter God,
Anyone who comes into contact with her also becomes ceremonially unclean,
Which makes relationships impossible,
Actually, it makes coming into a crowd like this, impossible.
There is no way that she should be here.
But look at her faith, 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
So whatever she’s heard or seen about Jesus leads her to this point, where she’s willing to risk everything.
The back and forth about who touched me, is probably Jesus’ way of drawing this woman out so that he can speak to her.
Verse 48, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
She’s healed! That’s twice Luke’s told us that, because he said it back up in verse 44 the moment it happened.
If she’d just stayed at home, thinking, “Well, I’m pretty sure Jesus would be able to do something about my condition”,
She’d have been right wouldn’t she?
But that’s not faith.
She was willing to live in the light of what she believed about Jesus,
For her belief to shape her life, and her faith in Jesus healed her.
Jesus has power and authority over death (v 40 – 41 & 49 – 56)
Let’s very quickly look at Jesus demonstrate his power over death in the last few verses, and then we’ll jump back into the middle of the story.
Jairus is a synagogue leader, verse 41, who again, demonstrates great faith.
And it’s a heart-wrenching picture isn’t it?
And some of you have been in it.
He fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
If the woman was a social outcast, this bloke was the opposite. But Jesus doesn’t play favourites, does he? Anyone who comes to Jesus gets welcomed.
You can imagine Jairus’s anguish as Jesus stops and talks to the woman.
“Come on Jesus, Who cares who touched you, my daughter is dying,
And then sure enough, worst fears confirmed, Your daughter is dead,”, “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
Whoever this messenger is, they obviously thought that Jesus had something to offer in the case of sickness, but not in the case of death.
But to Jesus, whether she’s dying, or dead, it makes no difference, does it?
“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
Jesus knows that even death is no hindrance to him.
And see once again, we’re touching on this idea of being afraid.
The disciples were afraid in the boat,
The townspeople in the Gerasenes were afraid,
Now Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid;”
“Don’t be afraid”, is not my typical advice, when I’m with families confronted with the spectre of death.
People are sad,
People are angry,
People are disappointed, heartbroken, maybe confused, but not usually afraid.
But see already Jesus knows what’s going to happen.
“just believe, and she will be healed.”
He’s about to demonstrate his power and authority over death,
He’s going to act with God’s authority on earth,
He’s about to show that there is nothing that his power is not enough to deal with,
And that God’s power, through Jesus, is always employed for the good of people.
He knows that Jairus, and his wife, and Peter, John and James who go in with him, they’re about to realise that they’re standing in the same room, as the creator God of the universe.
And in that situation, to come to the realisation that you’re face to face with the God who made,
The God you’ve rebelled against,
The God you’ve politely or not so politely ignored or rejected,
And then to see him exercise his power over death, what the Bible calls the last enemy.
Well, yes, in that situation, fear would be a totally appropriate and understandable response!
Verse 54, he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.
And so, because we’re back among Israel, who expected God’s king to come, though not quite the king Jesus is, he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
Jesus exercises power over nature, Who is this?
Power over evil, What God has done is what Jesus has done,
And in this double episode, Power over sickness and death, don’t be afraid when you realise you’re face to face with God.
Who is this?
This is the Son of the Most High God.
Is your picture of Jesus big enough?
This is hardly a Jesus that can be kept in the pages of a book,
Or squashed into one area of life,
Or constrained into just one day of the week.
This Jesus is going to necessarily spill over into all areas of your life, isn’t he? If you’ve really understood who he is, and what he’s come to do.
Jesus exercises power for salvation (45 – 48)
Come back with me, though, to the middle of the episode, where Jesus is speaking to the woman.
Jesus stops, even though the woman’s already been healed.
What comes next is not part of her being healed.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Jesus word though, for healed, is actually the word that means “saved”, “your faith has, saved you”
It speaks just as much about her standing before God, as about what’s happened to her body. That’s also picked up in the idea of peace in the same verse.
Here’s a woman, who on the morning of this day, woke up, probably alone,
An outcast in society,
Likely even within her family,
She’s isolated from the people of God,
Cut off from the presence of God,
But she goes home that afternoon, at peace with God, in real relationship with him, and she’s tasted the benefits of the kingdom of God; the healing and wholeness that will one day characterise our whole experience.
And how did it all happen?
Faith in Jesus.
Exactly the same way that anyone today can have peace with God, and enjoy the benefits of the kingdom of God.
And Jesus can promise this because he knows what’s coming. He’s going to die on the cross to take the penalty for this woman’s sins.
Her sins that are ultimately what was keeping her far from God,
Your ability to make a promise, is dependent on how much power you have.” We know that, don’t we, which is why sometimes we promise things but can’t deliver. We say circumstances were “out of our control.”
Not so with Jesus. He can promise salvation and peace with God, because he has the power to achieve them.
Jesus has power and authority over sickness. It’s pretty spectacular. Not the kind of thing Doctor Luke ever saw in all his years working at the Royal Jerusalem Hospital.
But even more significantly, is this woman’s new found peace with God. If Luke didn’t want us to focus in on that, he would have just skipped over verses 45 to 48, wouldn’t he? Because he’s already told us that she was healed.
Here’s why I think he slows down the action so much here, and why Jesus stops, even as he’s on his way to a little girl who’s dying.
The Bible is clear:, not everyone receives this kind of healing.
Not every person who has faith, is delivered from the, hurtful and frustrating effects of sickness and illness, from the effects of sin and rebellion in our world.
And most of you don’t need me to tell you that, because you’ve carried that hurt in your lives, and in your relationships,
And you’ve sat by bedsides as loved ones have been sick, and as they’ve died.
Not every person who has faith, receives the kind of restoration that Jairus and his family receive.
There are some so-called Christian leaders who promise you that you will, healing, health, and wholeness. But the Bible is clear, you may not.
And the fact that we can see how clearly these stories fit in the escalation of power demonstrations in Luke 8 shows us why these people received what they wanted when we sometimes don’t.
God is revealing something about who Jesus is, and he does it through these mighty demonstrations of power.
Jesus does what only God can do.
These people didn’t deserve it more or have more faith, Jairus wasn’t a better parent than you,
The man delivered from the demons wasn’t destined to be a more effective evangelist than you,
This woman didn’t necessarily have more faith than you,
And the disciples certainly hadn’t earned the right to die in their beds, old and gray.
But so that the kingdom of God could be established, God worked in these people’s lives.
You, might, not, receive, this kind of rescue, or deliverance, or healing, or resuscitation, you might! Certainly, ask God for it! Call me and I’ll come and ask God for it with you.
And we can pray, and cry, and call out to God together, and ask him to display the same power that we see is available here in Jesus.
I will gladly be in that with you, and I consider them among the most privileged moments in my life to have been able to do that with members of this family, standing over beds,
And in hospital rooms.
And just like I reckon that demon-possessed man was disappointed, when Jesus said “no you can’t come with me, I have something else in store for you”, So we in our disappointment and broken dreams, must remember, must encourage each other, and remind each other, of God’s goodness, even when we don’t get what we want,
And that God has something else, something better in store for us, even if there is no way in the world that we could possibly see how there could be anything better for us, than that which we have poured out our heart to God, for.
Not everyone receives this kind of deliverance or healing,
But everyone can receive, the salvation and peace with God, that the sick woman receives.
The visible demonstrations of power escalate:
Each one tells us something of who Jesus is, and that he acts with authority that belongs only to God.
But actually, the high point of this chapter is what’s invisible,
What happens in verse 45 to 48,
Because that’s what matters most,
That’s what really lasts.
This woman would get sick again,
The little girl would one day die,
The disciples would eventually die pretty terrible deaths,
The demon-possessed man, will again come up against the reality of sin and evil in the world.
But this gift, “your faith has saved you”
This gift, peace with God,
This lasts forever,
And it’s available to anyone.
And it cannot be taken away.
“your faith has saved you, go in peace”