Do you know a control freak? Maybe it’s someone who plans every second of every day. Maybe it’s someone who demands to always know where their girlfriend is. Maybe it’s someone who freaks out if they sense that they’re losing authority.
Maybe it’s me.
A story in Luke has quite a bit to say about our tendency to demand control. In chapter 8, satan’s demons meet Jesus face to face. This story also speaks about their opposing natures, and has some uncomfortable but exciting implications for us. We start with Jesus and his disciples sailing across the Sea of Galilee.
The demon possessed man
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town.
For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. . . Many times it [the impure spirit] had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. (Luke 8:27, 29-31)
Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (Mark 5:5)
Satan steals dignity
My heart breaks for this man. He was completely taken over by the demons that had entered him. And he’d lived this dreadful life alone in the tombs for “a long time!” Here is a crystal-clear picture of satan stealing human dignity. He gleefully caused much violence, pain, isolation, and unrest in this man’s life. Satan imposes as much of his disorder and insanity on us as possible. Further, this man was named after his many demons! He claimed the identity that darkness had given him.
I’ve been like this man at times. I’ve listened willingly to satan’s lies, accepting the identity of sin, mistakes, and darkness. I’ve let him “drive me to a solitary place.” When we’re isolated, we don’t have the help of other believers to help us refute satan.
So picture this man on the beach: naked, covered in wounds and scars. He’s satan’s puppet. Everything he does and says is coming straight from the demons.
But then Jesus steps ashore.
The playdate is over
When he saw Jesus, 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!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. . . And they [the demons] begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. Luke 8:28-29, 31
“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Matthew 8:29
I absolutely love this. When left alone, the demons had a heyday with this man. They had control. But the second Jesus steps foot on their turf, the playdate is over. Full authority is His, and they know it. They throw themselves down at Jesus’ feet, pleading for their lives. Matthew adds an important detail: the demons know that their torturous end is prearranged. Oh, how I anticipate that day of victory!
A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 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. Luke 8:32-33
At Jesus’ command to leave, the demons obey. They even go where he says. I take rest in the authority of Jesus. Even the darkest, most astounding and long-standing evil is dislodged at once by his word. There’s no competition.
Jesus restores dignity
When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. Luke 8:34-35
Every ounce of dignity that satan had stolen, Jesus restored. Picture it with me. This was a real man. He had been the town’s freak, a spectacle. People might have assumed he was dead, long gone.
But there he was at Jesus’ feet: clothed, sitting peacefully, and in his right mind. The townspeople couldn’t have predicted or even comprehended this. Dignified. Thoroughly, irrefutably changed.
Listen: Jesus specializes in defeating satan. He delights in unraveling satan’s schemes. He has a history of victory over satan.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:8b
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20
I love it! Those verses are so reassuring. Back to the story now. The townspeople have just laid eyes on a complete miracle: the town freak restored. . . And their reaction totally disappoints me.
. . .and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. Luke 8:35-37
Preserving control, forfeiting power
Although I’d like to think I would react in a better way, I can’t totally blame these people. Experiencing God’s awesome power also means submitting to his sovereign will. It means giving up our control, and that's hard. These people are unwilling. They ask Jesus to leave.
So he got into the boat and left. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:37-39
Jesus did not resist their request. He simply boarded his boat, said a few words to the cured man, and left. . . although the man surely carried on the legacy of Jesus’ work in that place!
Here’s the thing: Jesus won’t force his work into the lives of those who won’t receive him. Just think of everything these people missed out on because of their fear! Jesus could have stayed and brought so much healing to them: physical, mental, and spiritual. But they sent Jesus away: preserving their control over their lives but forfeiting the experience of his power.
I hate to say it, but I’ve done the same exact thing. Jesus’ authority is exciting and awe-inspiring, but when it starts to interfere with my control, desires, or plans, I’d rather go without it. In lowly moments, I’d rather sin, stay indifferent to Jesus, make my own decisions, and accept the pending disorder satan is heaving upon me. How gracious my God is to faithfully draw my wandering heart back to himself, clothe me in dignity and wisdom, and turn my face upon his glory.
An unshakable identity
So take heart, child of God! If you’ve accepted Christ’s cover for your sins and committed to walking with him, you’ve been given a new identity that is unshakable. You are steadily seen in the same way by your Father: chosen and adopted by him, given righteousness, dignity, and purity, known and made one with him, and part of the body of Christ. Satan may drive us to solitary places. He may mar our consciences. He may try to drive us insane. But he cannot get a finger on our true identities and eternal destinies in Christ Jesus.
And the more control you relinquish to Christ, the more of his power you'll experience in your life.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!