Today’s Gospel is an amazing account that teaches us so much about Christ in a very interesting way. Often we read in the Gospels of Jesus casting out demons and the account is very general, simply stating the fact. But today’s Gospel gives us a full account and we get a good description of the event. Somehow word about Jesus had spread outside of Israel so that even this man who was possessed by demons had heard of Jesus and knew that Jesus could cast out demons. He fell before Jesus to beg His help when the demons that possessed him again took control of him and his speaking: What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, don’t torment me! Notice here–the demons knew exactly Who Jesus is and what He had come to do–destroy the kingdom of the devil, plundering souls out of it by dying on the cross and rising again giving people the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. With Jesus’ coming and work and by the spread of the Gospel working faith, the devil’s kingdom is being destroyed; he no longer has all people firmly in his grasp. Each account of Jesus casting out a demon is a sign of the devil’s ultimate defeat and judgment. Here we see that the demons are already fearing the final judgment, and condemnation and torment by Jesus on the Last Day.
All people can learn something from the demons– Jesus [is] Son of the Most High God. That is a simple fact. If people took it to heart, how differently they would act and how differently they would consider what is important and what isn’t! For the demons, it’s too late and they know their fate–hellish, eternal torment. Here we see something very important–the difference between knowledge and faith. The demons know who Jesus is, Jesus, Son of the Most High God, but that’s it; they do not, they cannot have faith, that is, trust in Him as their Savior from devil and hell. They can only see Him as their Judge and tormentor: I beg You, don’t torment me! St. James puts it this way [2.19]: You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble. But our Lord is calling us to faith in Him, that is, to trust in Him as our Savior from sin, death, devil and hell; to rely on Him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life; to look to Him and His saving work for our rescue from sin and for eternal life. Jesus isn’t calling on us just to know Him–even the demons know who He is–but to believe on Him as our Savior. Let each of us, in faith, say: Jesus [is] Son of the Most High God and my Savior!
Notice something else that shows Jesus’ power and authority even over the devils: They were begging Jesus that He would not order them to go into the abyss…. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and He gave them permission. The demons cannot do anything on their own; they need Jesus’ permission. That’s a comfort to us when we see all sorts of evil in the world or are suffering all sorts of evil personally–it is all under Jesus’ control. The devil and his demons cannot do anything without our Lord’s permission. That means that whatever evil the Lord does allow has to serve His good and gracious purposes. It’s never the case that our Lord is unwilling or unable to stop the evil–He is simply using for good what the devil intends for evil. We may not/ never figure out how–but that is where faith comes in and leave it in the Lord’s hands that He knows what He is doing.
After such a great miracle showing His power over the devil and his demons, you would think the people would be overjoyed and want to have Jesus stay longer. But what do we read? The whole crowd of people from the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were gripped with greater fear. That’s something we sadly see so often–people reject Jesus even though they recognize who He is because welcoming and receiving Him would be uncomfortable for them; they would have to give up sin, that they so much enjoy. They give up the heavenly and the eternal for the supposed “joy” of momentary sin. Let that not be us; instead, let our lives be ones with our focus on Christ and on the eternal.
Our Gospel has a very interesting tie in with today’s epistle, our text. Look at the description of demon possessed man: He was possessed by demons and for a long time had not worn any clothes. He did not live in a house but in the tombs…[The] unclean spirit had seized him many times. He was kept under guard, and although he was bound with chains and shackles, he would break the restraints and was driven by the demon into deserted places. With this demon possessed man we can also see a description of a person without faith in Christ, a person left to his own devices. A person without Christ is bound/ a slave to sin–just like this man was subject to the demons who possessed him. This is why we do mission work/ tell others the Good News about Jesus–to rescue people already now from this slavery to sin, death, devil and finally hell itself.
But then after Jesus had cast out the demons, the man was sitting at Jesus’ feet. He was clothed and in his right mind. He was completely different. Here he’s described with a sort of dignity–clothed/ in his right mind–and it is Jesus and His will and obedience to will that fills the man’s mind and heart: when the man wanted to go with Jesus, Jesus told him: Return to your home and tell how much God has done for you. And that’s exactly what he did. Then he went through the whole town proclaiming what Jesus had done for him. That’s our life now as a Christian–no longer slaves to our own sinful will and desires but free–free to serve the Lord and strive to do His will. We know and love the Lord as our God and Savior. That’s a life of faith!
Notice what St. Paul writes in our epistle: In fact, you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There’s our dignity and majesty as Christians: we are sons of God through faith in Jesus. What an exalted title and position we have as our Lord’s dear Christian. Listen to that dignity as St. John describes it [1 3.1]: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God! How high, how exalted our position! Maybe some might object and say that this is just some honorary title that means nothing, that we are just called children of God. But St. John continues: Beloved, now we are children of God. This is the fact/ the reality! We are the children of God. And our again text: you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. That’s who we are as Christians. Will/ can God forget about His dear children? Hardly! Won’t He look out for us and our good–and since He is God almighty, won’t He work out all things for our spiritual and heavenly good? Of course, He will! Since we are His sons through faith, isn’t He going to give us one day a heavenly inheritance? And isn’t that what all His actions toward us now are geared toward? Of course!
Not only is this an exalted position we are in, but it is very comforting: since through faith we are sons/ children of God, that means that God is our dear loving heavenly Father. As His children, we then know God rightly as our dear, loving, heavenly Father! Remember how Luther comments on the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven… He writes: With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father. The almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth and all things, wants us/ invites us to go to Him in our needs and He will graciously hear and answer our prayers in the best way for us, His dear children.
In fact, you are all sons of God how/ why? through faith in Christ Jesus. Just as little as we decided to make ourselves children of our parents, so also we don’t make ourselves the sons of God. Not by our own strength, not through ourselves, or our worthiness or merit do we become the sons of God but we become the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus –faith, which is God’s gift to us, the work of His Holy Spirit working through the Sacraments and Word. The very fact, dear Christian, that we are all sons of God and have that exalted and comforting status is all God’s gracious gift to us.
Then St. Paul continues: Indeed, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Here we see that faith and baptism are so closely connected. That’s because baptism works/ creates faith. And the faith that baptism works then lays hold of Jesus and His saving work, on His forgiveness and relies on Him. The faith that baptism creates is not an idle quality, but is busy and active and holding on to Jesus and receiving all of His gifts and blessings. Baptism unites us with Jesus and His death and resurrection as St. Paul also writes elsewhere [Rm. 6.1] because it creates faith. And notice how St. Paul describes the glorious effect of baptism in our text/ how he describes the faith that baptism works–as clothing ourselves with Christ. When you put clothes on, what do they do? –They cover you so that you and the people around you don’t see you, body, skin–but they see the clothes covering you. [As] many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Through faith we clothe ourselves/ we cover ourselves with Christ. Jesus is, if you will, our garment. That means that Jesus and His holiness and righteousness cover us. Jesus is our garment of righteousness and salvation. So closely are we through faith united with Jesus, are we clothed with Him, that His righteousness is ours. So when God sees us, He does not see all of our sin and wretchedness but He sees only the perfect holiness of Jesus.
And being baptized into Christ, faith is created that not only clings to Jesus and His work, but that faith works in us new and devout emotions; we are freed so that we hear God’s word, agree with it, receive it. In that faith, as the sons of God we delight in and strive for holiness, even though it is with great weakness. In our lives we show Christ, with whom we clothed ourselves and with whom we are united by faith; He permeates us and leads us into every good work. What a glorious dignity we have as sons of God–one flowing from the faith of baptism!
As we have been baptized and are clothed with Christ, we have a new identity as the sons of God! Our text: There is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Remember the imagery St. Paul is using–in baptism we have been clothed with Christ; and like when we put on an article of clothing, that is seen not the person’s body. So the same thing here. Since we are clothed in Jesus and His righteousness, before God all distinctions between persons are removed: none of us has anything to boast about before the Lord; none of us can claim anything over another; none of us has any advantage. In spite of our earthly differences which are and remain, we believe the one and same thing; and we have an equal dignity before God. He sees and loves us as His own dear Son, Jesus. In this life, yes, we still have our race, our social class, our gender. In this world, they don’t go away. We honor those in positions over us, for example. But all Christians have an equal dignity and majesty for having been baptized into Christ and clothed with Him, we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Here, as sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, is where we find our true identity. Who and what we are in Jesus is our true identity. Not our race or our job or social standing or our gender or our politics is who we really are. May we say: I am a Christian who happens to be a Jew, Greek, etc. a servant, a boss, etc. a man, a woman. Who we really are, are the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. That’s our true identity and dignity for we were baptized into Christ and are clothed with Him. INJ