Wild and Crazy Guy
esus did not see Legion as he was, but as he could become. Jesus loved people and encouraged all kinds of troubled people to overcome whatever their demons were; not by their own ability but through availability to divine power.
Robert Duvall recently received the Grand Prize award from Movieguide magazine for his starring role and production of The Apostle. He played a troubled preacher who went through terrible experiences and failures, but who remained true to Christ through it all. In receiving the award Duvall said, ... we tried hard to show that there is a power higher than ourselves... I wanted it to be an expression of grace.
Although contemporary psychology might name it something else, our text says that Legion, or Mob, got his name from being possessed by many demons. Part of it was no doubt his background and family that caused his problems. Marilyns favorite psychiatrist, Carl Whitaker, blames our problems on our parents: Which hangs a lot of guilt on us fathers and mothers. Others blame genetics, which also is the curse of the fathers and mothers. It might be simpler to blame it on the devil. At least, thats how our story goes.
Part of Legions problem was, no doubt, that he had learned his expected role in society well. He was called the village idiot and he played the part. Shakespeare said that we are all actors on a stage, playing some role. Part of Legions healing we self-discovery, learning to be himself. Its hard for guys to be themselves in a macho world. We play with pick up trucks and guns, or Brooks Brothers Suits, or whatever the role is to play. We look so silly, but every now and then we meet a real person and through it we see our sham, and we are afraid.
Legions fellow Gerasenes had learned to deal with the wild and crazy guy who lived out in the tombs, who cut his body with sharp stones and probably had some body piercing and tattoos. They had learned to deal with his screaming, some had possibly tried to befriend him, but he was as wild as ever. But note, when he was restored to sanity, and they saw him clothed in his right mind... They were afraid. (v. 35-36).
No longer were they afraid of Legion because of his demons, they were now afraid of the one that Legion had recognized as Jesus, Son of the Most High God. (v. 28). What power was this that had transformed their insane neighbor into a new man with a witness about what the Lord had done for him? Suddenly they were confronted by the claim of Christ on their lives in a dramatic manner. Their long held presuppositions and beliefs were challenged by this new teacher from across the Sea of Galilee. They now seemed much more afraid of Legion than they were before he was healed.
Legions natural desire was to become a follower of Jesus. This would not only let him learn more as a disciple, but it would get him away from his unforgiving neighbors. But Jesus had a much greater calling for Legion, he was to Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you. (v.39). Indeed, the next time Jesus came into Gadara he found a formative group of followers who had quite possibly been the product of Legions ministry to his own people.
It was also therapeutic for Legion to tell his story, over and over again. The secret of the various twelve step addiction recovery groups is that folks are encouraged to tell their stories. We Methodists use to have testimonies during small groups and prayer meetings. Daddy would often ask, Does anybody have a word of testimony? There was great group therapy in that, and it produced powerful bonding. Also, there were some funny things that would inevitably occur, that broke down barriers and allowed people to find themselves, and love each other. New converts were allowed a caring fellowship in which to verbalize their stories about how much God had done for them. It also instilled into the children the idea that anybody could repent of their sins and be transformed into a new creation by Gods power.
We need like-minded friends. In Augusta this week, at Annual Conference, someone told the story of how Arnold Palmer was not hitting the golf ball straight one day but how Arnies Army would try to allow the balls to hit their bodies so that they might bounce back onto the green. Some of his loyal fans have even been known to kick his ball back on the green. The storyteller ended by saying, As long as Arnold Palmer is able to play he will never hit a foul ball at the Augusta National. Sometimes we need a little help from our friends.
I recall one middle age father of five daughters who had experienced salvation as an adult. He was hard working, but uneducated, and a former alcoholic, and it must have been a real inner struggle for him to testify in a public meeting; but it was expected and he finally stood. Mr. Thomas had heard folks saying how much the Lord had done for them and how they wanted to make heaven their home; but he got it a little backwards when he said--- I thank the Lord for what I have done for him and when I die I want to make home my heaven. I recall folks smiling, but nobody laughed, they were so happy that he had made the effort. I remember how happy his daughters and wife all were that their father had come home to the Father. But, come to think of it, after all these years, there is a real sense in which he has made home his heaven, as he is remembered lovingly in the hearts of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Because of the decision their grandpaw made some 40 years ago, they today have a better life and a better opportunity to achieve their highest and best. That is the power of a father finding the Father.
Carlysle Marney introduced to notion of Balcony People and Basement People. The Balcony People were those who always wanted to lift you up to higher heights, and the Basement People were thrilled to see you fall. I am sure you all conjure up images of folks who fit those two images. Some of us may just be honest enough to fit ourselves into on of those categories. But the good news is that we can change categories--- today!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor